The Public Consultations
This article by Jack Betteridge first appeared in the Riverside letters page of Twickenham Online. Prof Betteridge is a Twickenham resident, and he chaired the River Use Working Party, the River Centre Working Party, and he's a member of the Traffic and Parking Working Party.
What has the public said?
There have been very few contributions from Councillors to a debate that has engaged the public in lengthy and extensive discussions over the last two and a half years. The Council's position has been presented to the public by the Officers, Robert Hancock and Bill Dyke. Hence, Trevor Wittall's letters are valuable in helping to redress this imbalance. However, he errs in thinking that McCormack Jamieson & Pritchard's proposals have been the subject of a MORI poll.
There have been six occasions when the public have been consulted in a formal way about the options for the pool site. In five of these the Council has been actively involved, once with MORI and on the other four occasions in conjunction with the Twickenham Society and Eel Pie Island Association (EPIA).
1. Jan/Feb 2000, Public meetings and a survey form
The presentations took around 45 mins and this was followed by an hour or so's open discussion.
Everyone was presented with a survey form at the outset of the meeting. This was constructed to ascertain preferences for the commercial element, the public benefit, the overall balance of the development. The final question asked for a vote on which scheme was favoured, one of the two on offer or something different.
Overall, approximately 300 people attended the meetings and 182 survey forms were completed.
The messages with respect to balance were clear and were acted upon
in the revision of the brief. However, the clear views expressed about
the preferred options were not embraced with the same degree of enthusiasm.
The basic findings were those in favour of: the Centre option, 44
%, open space, 21 % and the Cinema option 12 %.
Derek Plummer summed up one of the meetings by saying "The Council is trying to develop two schemes, one of which (the cinema) is unpopular and unlikely to get planning permission. The other is likely to be non-viable. It would be prudent if they were to develop an open space option which was low risk and low cost."
2. Jan/Feb 2000, MORI poll.
A. "A 3-screen Cinema showing children's films during school holidays, matinee films to appear to an older audience and main stream cinema for the general audience. There would also be up to £2m for other leisure facilities in Twickenham.
B. A discovery/heritage centre for residents of all ages providing a range of facilities including small music/dance performance space, café, shop and arts display area."
The background information about the development was conveyed in
43% favoured the centre (option B), 38 % favoured the cinema (option A) .
It was a shoddy piece of work by MORI, and a good example of "garbage in, garbage out".
3. Dec 2000, verbal presentations by MacCormac Jamieson &
Prichard (MJP) to local interest groups with survey form
4. Jan 2001, verbal presentations to local interest groups
and the general public, with show of hands
5. Jan 2001, poster display and survey form
A fair conclusion of the January exercises is that the public was consulted, but their opinion was not properly measured.
6. Spring 2001, The petition, was conducted independently
by members of the local Labour Party. This shows a strong support
for an open space option.
As one who has sat through many of these consultation meetings, I doubt the matter is as clear cut as Cllr Whitall, supposes. There are many in the Borough who view the riverside as a treasured public space and they were very unhappy about what is now being proposed. The Council may later regret their refusal to explore an open space option, and their failure to measure public opinion in Jan/Feb 2001.
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