Notes of the Forum Meeting
held 28th May 2012
Summary of main points discussed, decisions and actions agreed
1. Welcome and Introductions
Lesley Middleton (Residents’ Association Chair) welcomed those present, including Alf Clempson (assistant to Ben Wallace MP) and the Wyre Councillors in attendance who introduced themselves.
Attendees: 115 members of the public and Councillors David Bannister, Roger Berry, Simon Bridge, Peter Gibson, David Henderson and Lesley McKay.
Apologies for absence received from: Councillors Barry Birch and May Gandhi and Norman Irish (Chair of Neighbourhood Watch); also apologies for expected late arrival from Councillors Graeme Cocker and Gordon McCann.
After paying the costs of the meeting there would be a balance of £264.30 in the Association’s bank account. Donations towards the ongoing costs of publicity and Hall hire would be gratefully received.
3.1. Mary Portas Bid: Councillor Gibson thanked the borough-wide team that had put together an excellent bid, and the MPs who had actively supported it. Wyre had not been successful in the first round but would be entering the second.
3.2. Police Station: Chief Superintendant Bayly has said that the police were operating as usual from their station in Market Place and that they expected to have an operational unit there for the next 12 months. In the longer term they wanted to have a highly visible base in the town centre.
3.3. Costa Coffee: Councillor Gibson reported that planning permission had been given for a change of use at the former Ethel Austin premises. He explained that the committee was not permitted to take into account commercial considerations such as the number of cafés in the town centre.
3.4. Town Appearance: Councillor Gibson reported that various signage errors had been corrected, other signs were being considered for replacement, signs for which LCC were responsible had been drawn to their attention and a new bus shelter had been ordered to replace the one opposite the railway station.
4. Poulton Station Volunteers/Poulton in Bloom
Carol Woolley gave a brief history of the station and of successes in securing sponsors, raising funds and winning RHS awards. The 14 current volunteers were thanked. They meet on the first Saturday of each month to plant and tidy the flower beds etc and new volunteers would be very welcome.
Carol reported that this year the RHS wanted towns’ “in bloom” efforts to focus on sustainability. Some 38 sponsors were already signed-up; volunteers were working with all the local schools and a ‘bees and butterflies’ flower bed was planned for outside China Red Restaurant. It was hoped the town would retain its Silver-Gilt award when the judging took place on 9th July. Local residents could assist by picking up litter and should speak to Carol if they wished to help in other ways.
5. Poulton Gala
John Bailey thanked the volunteers working with him to organise the Gala which would be held on 2nd June. He also thanked the 70+ local traders who were supporting events and Wyre Council (WC) and the Rotary Club for their assistance. Details of the parade, entertainment, classic car rally, fun fair, and art and photographic exhibitions could all be found in the Gala Brochure, on sale for £1.
6. Vicarage Park
Lesley gave an update on behalf of the Parks’ Officer. New lighting had been installed and the old fittings re-furbished and re-used in St Chad’s Churchyard. The toilet block and booking office had been demolished, path routes altered and new seating and central meeting place installed. A wetland planted area had been created to alleviate standing water problems and the first phase of perennial planting undertaken. An annual wildflower meadow is to be sown imminently and new signage will be installed. Local residents were invited to assist with an event to plant 2,000 snowdrops at 2pm on 25th July. Bring a trowel!
7. Booths Planning Proposals
Lesley and Bill had invited Dransfield, developers of another town-centre proposal, to attend the meeting. They had responded as follows: “We are currently looking in detail at the feedback we received at our public consultation session and how this might alter and improve our plans for Poulton. Therefore whilst we would be delighted to present to the residents’ group could we suggest arranging this for a future meeting.”
Lesley then introduced Graham Booth, Director, and Mike Thompson, Estates Manager, from Booths Supermarkets. Mr Booth confirmed that a planning application had been submitted on 22nd May for development of a new Booths food store on the north-south mall of the Teanlowe Centre. The proposal differed only slightly from that seen by some 2,200 people at the recent exhibition. Details could be viewed on the WC website or on the in-store display. Mr Booth agreed to see if the latter could be extended with a further display at the rear of the store. The following points were made in response to questions:-
Timescales: Hope is to have the planning decision by the end of the summer holiday period. Development will be phased with a rolling programme of refurbishment and decanting of smaller shops and the new supermarket completed last. The best estimate for completion is Christmas 2014, although Easter 2015 is more likely.
Jobs: Jobs will be lost when the Co-op closes. Booths will offer jobs in the new store to their own current staff and will also recruit approximately 70 new staff, about 50% full-time. Confidential discussions are ongoing with the other businesses in the Teanlowe with the aim of keeping as many of them as possible so that the centre is fully let. Sunday Trading Regulations will apply to the new supermarket as now but other shops’ trading hours have not yet been discussed.
Relief Road: The relief road through the Hardhorn Car-park is not part of the Booths’ application as such but their plan assumes that it will be built and commercially it is very important to them. Councillor Gibson confirmed that LCC and the Highways Agency are considering the matter and talks are continuing.
Parking: Booths feel strongly that free parking is essential and discussions are ongoing with WC. Councillor Gibson indicated that a similar policy to that which applies in Garstang would be considered.
Existing Booths Store: Booths will retain ownership and aim to let the site to one or more high quality retailers, which could include another grocer. They would consider any town centre usage that could generate footfall and be advantageous to the town.
Co-ordinating Developments: Councillor Gibson confirmed that Dransfield had submitted a planning application for the Market Hall and that it and the Booths application will each have to be considered separately, on their own merits. Asked if the best parts of both proposals could not be progressed, Mr Booth pointed out that the Booths proposal is significantly different in that they already control the land involved and, given permission, intend to press ahead. However they would co-operate with others who want to re-develop and think a positive outcome is possible in due course.
8. Any Other Business
8.1. Carlton railway bridge closure: has been deferred to November. At the request of local traders, Councillor Gibson has written to Network Rail asking for a delay to January so as not to impact Christmas trade. A reply is awaited.
8.2. High Cross Park planning application: Councillor Berry reported that the application is being considered and that meanwhile WC has been in touch with the site owner and developer about making the site secure. A meeting with Fire/Safety officials this week will be used to bring more pressure to bear.
8.3. Crime matters: Bill Waller reminded residents they could raise general concerns at the Community PACT meeting held on the first Tuesday of each month, 5.30 – 6.30, at Poulton Library. March crime statistics showed some improvements and Councillor Berry expressed appreciation for the policing team’s work. There were local problems with break-ins to garages/sheds and metal thefts. Residents should be vigilant and report suspicious activity – using 999 if urgent or 101 if not.
8.4. Parking and related issues:
a) Parked cars are blocking drivers’ line of sight on Mossbourne Road and Lockwood Avenue – this is a matter for Councillor Roper at LCC.
b) Problems are being caused by cars being sold from road-side parking spots – Councillor Bridge is trying to get verges repaired and bollards erected on Garstang Road, but again an LCC matter.
c) It was suggested that parking wardens be asked to prevent taxis parking outside their designated parking bays on Ball Street.
d) Since Ball Street cannot be a pedestrian zone, could it have a 20mph speed limit – another LCC matter but it is understood Ball Street is included in the 20mph zone; details should be available on the LCC website.
e) Pavements on the corner of Vicarage Road are cracked/broken due to parking taxis, the safety barrier is mangled and the CCTV pole needs painting – can anything be done about any of this.
8.5. Jean Stansfield Memorial Park Entrance: Councillor Gibson confirmed that the Friends of the Park had been fully involved in deciding how to spend the limited budget available and had agreed that refurbishing the entrance was not top priority.
8.6. Thomas the Tank Engine: if anyone has space to store Thomas, please contact the Poulton Rotary Club (via Lesley if necessary).
8.7. Poulton Walkabout: The Library and Historical & Civic Society are hosting a guided town centre walkabout followed by refreshments in the Library. The walk starts from St. Chad’s steps at 2pm on 29th May, is free and open to all comers.
9. Dates of Next Meetings
The next meetings will be at 7pm on 21st August at St. Martin’s and St. Hilda’s Church Hall and 19th November at St. Chad’s Church Hall.