Agenda item - Deputations from members of the public.

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Agenda item

Deputations from members of the public.

A list of deputations received by the due date of the 8th July 2010 will be circulated separately as part of an addendum at the meeting.



7.1             The Mayor reported that two deputations had been received from members of the public and invited Ms Brace as the spokesperson for the first deputation to come forward and address the council.


7.2             Ms Brace thanked the Mayor and presented the deputation:


“Thank you councillors for the opportunity to present the case for the reinstatement of the dog-free zone in Queen’s Park.  This deputation has been prepared jointly by The Friends of Queen’s Park and the Queen’s Park Local Action Team on behalf of the users of the park and the residents in the local area.


This deputation this afternoon covers just an outline of our case and Sandra Magson, the Chair of The Friends of Queen’s Park, has written to all of you separately setting out the case in full and with some supporting documents and if you haven’t already read those papers I would urge you to do so and you will see why our community feels so strongly about this issue.


We are asking the council to re-establish the historic balance that existed prior to January 2009 between dog owners and other users of Queen’s Park and we are asking you to do that by restoring the dog-free status to the south lawns, the cascade and pond areas, the wild and quiet gardens and the tennis courts.  This is not an anti?dog proposal.  There is no wish on our part to ban dogs from the whole of the park.


Since the mid-1970s and following a popular community campaign that Councillor Fryer referred to earlier the areas were designated as dog-free, leaving the whole of the northern lawns below West Drive as an area for exercising dogs.  This arrangement operated very, very successfully for over 30 years.  Both dog owners and other park users respected the arrangement which as a consequence was self?enforcing and achieved a balance between the needs of all park users.


In January 2009 new dog control orders came into force overturning this historic arrangement and making the whole park, with the exception of the play area, ‘dog?friendly’.  As a result an imbalance has arisen between the needs of those affected by dogs and those exercising their dogs where none previously existed.  Most dog owners valued the previous arrangements which ensured them an area where they could exercise their dogs freely without criticism and without conflict.  The new arrangements have introduced a previously unfelt tension in the park with people engaging in incompatible activities in a very small and heavily used space.


The new dog control orders can’t compensate for the loss of our dog-free area.  We have major concerns relating to dog excrement and the serious health issues around toxocariasis and other issues with that and the unpleasantness of fouling generally and also with issues regarding anti-social behaviour and dogs.  Putting dogs on leads in any part and around the pond would not resolve this issue.


The park and the south lawns in particular, support a wide variety of activities over the year from organised events to individual usage.  People from all over Brighton and Hove and from further afield visit and enjoy the park.  In fact, it’s listed as the 13th out of 30 attractions in Brighton on the National Trip Adviser website, so you can see it’s a great asset to our city.


Some of the activities in the park include schools and nurseries in the area using Queen’s Park for play, sport and education.  Over 1,800 children attend schools and nurseries within 5/10 minutes walk of the park.  Staff and parents have told us that they place a very high value on having such easy access to the park for a wide range of activities.  Council staff organise fun days for young children during the summer months.  Six-a-side football teams set up every Sunday for a supervised game.  The Friends of Queens Park hold their annual picnic and we also have the ‘Bark in the Park’ for the dog owners as well, which was very popular last weekend.  Over the last few years the Brighton Festival have chosen Queen’s Park for various events on the south lawns, installations and entertainments which have attracted thousands and thousands of people. 


All of these activities are in jeopardy and one local nursery has already stopped using the park and is going now to Tarner Park instead of using Queen’s Park because of the change there.  One school has advised that it will no longer hold its school sports day in the park if it remains dog?friendly.


More generally, families and their friends use the south lawns as a gathering point for picnics; students study there; adults and children walk to work, to school, to nursery.  Elderly people sit on the benches and just enjoy the park, the sunshine and the wildlife.  People relax, they sunbathe on the grass, teenagers gather and chat.  Grandparents take their grandchildren to the pond and other areas to look at the wildlife and just to play, to roll down the slopes on the grass, to play football, cricket, Frisbee.  You name it, it happens in Queen’s Park, including juggling and trapeze practice. 


Park users value the park as one of the few in Brighton and Hove where they can relax in a dog-free area.  The sort of activities that take place in the dog-free area rarely happen in the dog-friendly part of the park.  It’s often empty when the other part is full of picnics, parties and trapeze practice.  Park users are entitled to and expect an environment that’s clean and healthy.


The changes brought about in 2009 represent a loss of amenity to the park users that previously valued the peace, tranquillity and closeness to nature in Queen’s Park and all of these are being placed in jeopardy.


Just to wind up, it’s a very heavily used park with a wide range of demands.  The idea of shared space in this park is impracticable but it works in larger spaces across the city.  The reinstatement would incur no additional cost to the council as the area is already fenced and it would not need to have dog excrement bins placed, which it doesn’t currently have, so there would be no additional cost. 


We urge you to support the reinstatement of the dog-free area, take appropriate action to return balance and harmony to Queen’s Park as soon as possible and the Action Team and the Friends would help you in any way that we can to do so.”


7.3             Councillor Theobald replied, “Thank you very much for the way in which you presented the Deputation and for the letter which I know you have sent to all my colleagues.


The council reviewed the bye-laws, as you said in your Deputation, throughout the city in 2007/2008 because the previous bye-laws in Brighton and Hove were inconsistent, confusing and often difficult to enforce.  There were two extensive consultations with national publicity.  The media took a very keen interest and I have to say that I remember that very well indeed, having been the subject of TV and radio, etc, and there were marches one way or the other.


The consultation complied with best practice guidelines with, as I have already said, very extensive media coverage.  There were no formal representations against the change in Queen’s Park and no formal feedback either from residents or the elected Councillors for the area and indeed the council itself approved the new bye-laws at its council meeting on 17 July 2008 without any Councillor querying the change in Queen’s Park. 


Actually, just one point, the children’s dog?free play area is a bit larger than it was before and there has been massive investment in the park facilities.  I am obviously reluctant to become embroiled in another issue where there are differences of opinion and this subject attracts strong views. 


For example, there were two petitions today concerning dog controls in Queen’s Park.  One petition asking for a review of the dog control order presented by one of our colleagues and the other petition requesting that dogs are not banned from the southern lawns. 


Any change to the current dog control orders will require another careful public consultation process and before embarking upon this I would need to be certain that this is the course of action that the vast majority of residents want.  If the Ward Councillors, for instance, can come forward and show to me that there is consensus or that there is a very large majority in favour of change then I would consider the best course of action.”


7.4             The Mayor thanked Ms. Brace for attending the meeting and speaking on behalf of the deputation.  He explained that the points had been noted and the deputation would be referred to the Environment Cabinet Member Meeting for consideration.  The persons forming the deputation would be invited to attend the meeting and would be informed subsequently of any action to be taken or proposed in relation to the matter set out in the deputation.


7.5             The Mayor then invited Mr Howitt as the spokesperson for the second deputation to come forward and address the council.


7.6             Mr. Howitt thanked the Mayor and stated that:


The provision of primary school places in the past two years has been one emergency measure after another, with this year seeing the creation of Benfield Infants in a matter of weeks, in a year in which we expected only a small rise in the number of children.


Action4kids and parents across Hove welcome the opportunity offered by the Connaught road site.  Hopefully this is a permanent and fully funded option as suggested in today’s press release and not a temporary measure as suggested in this Monday’s CYPT meeting agenda.  However, it is clear that even with this site and the proposed extensions to three schools in the city, we will still struggle to accommodate the intake for 2011 which will require places for at least 230 extra children.


Despite all the facts and history clearly defining this problem, we still do not have a blueprint or strategy from the council to outline how and when these problems will be addressed and funded, instead we just see more delays, more quick fix measures and further temporary ideas.


Today we see the consequences of these delays and indecision compounding the problem further as we face the scrapping of the ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme and the further threat of cuts.


The council owes a great deal to families across the city who have had to endure a great deal of frustration, disappointment and hardship over the years as a direct result of the council’s lack of planning and commitment.


It is time for the council to repay the debt it owes to parents, teachers, governors and schools in the city by giving a clear commitment to not only find the funds to provide the school places, but a blueprint, strategy and timetable so that all the affected parties can at least plan and prepare for the changes instead of finding decisions forced upon them.


I would like to thank the council today for their time and hope we can all work together in finding a solution to this problem.”


7.7             Councillor Brown replied, “The provision of primary school places over the last four years has seen the delivery of planned expansions of Davigdor, West Blatchington, Balfour Juniors, Somerhill, Goldstone and Westdene.  Additional expansion is now proposed for Queen’s Park and a new, three form entry, primary phase provision ready for September 2011.


There are sufficient primary places across the city as a whole but there is a significant pressure in some areas.  The proposed expansion of Benfield is to ensure sufficient places are available in the west of the city.  As trends seem set to continue the council believes it is important to address this issue now rather than require a significant number of parents to transport their children to schools well away from their locality.


Once the expansions described above are confirmed and completed there will be a surplus of 191 reception places in the city for 2011.  This takes into account the projected increase in reception numbers of 148 from 2010.


The council has projected numbers until 2020 based on assumptions that numbers will continue to rise.  However, these projections are based on trends, as reception children beyond 2014 have yet to be born and registered with GP’s, and the council must be cautious in committing its use of significantly limited funding in building additional places that may not be needed.


Details have been made regularly available through CMM reports identifying the expansions of schools and school places in a timely and prudent fashion.  If all proposals are approved by the council, based on present trends the council will have sufficient reception class places until 2017.  Officers have already begun discussions with primary schools to identify capacity for future expansions should the need arise.  Officers also continue to explore possible sites for any future creation of new schools.”


7.8             The Mayor thanked Mr. Howitt for attending the meeting and speaking on behalf of the deputation.  He explained that the points had been noted and the deputation would be referred to the Children & Young People Cabinet Member Meeting for consideration.  The persons forming the deputation would be invited to attend the meeting and would be informed subsequently of any action to be taken or proposed in relation to the matter set out in the deputation.


Supporting documents:


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