Will Quince Watch

And so Will Quince MP was picked out of the lucky hat to put a question to Theresa May at PMQ’s today.

“Yo Girl. Will you be joining me on the mean streets of Shrub End for some last minute campaigning?”

I refer my Right Hon friend to the answer I gave earlier: strong and bloody stable, etc.

Yeah yeah – PMQ’s is at best a pantomime, but more than often it is a bloody farce.

It’s always a little odd when a backbencher is called upon to hold their own Leader to account.

But it’s the showcase and the prestige that pushes the buttons.

Irrespective of party colours, you get a glow when you see ‘Colchester’ appear at the bottom of the screen.

It’s like watching the national weather forecast and seeing Ipswich not appearing, but SUNNY COLCH instead.

And so what was the substance of Quince’s Q?

Having teased his constituents on Twitter earlier in the week, we tried to in vain to crowdsource a Q.

In the end Quince went with the issue of homelessness.

OK.

We weren’t expecting that…

PMQ’s is more about highlighting an issue, rather than genuine scrutiny of how the government is going about its business.

For the record, the MP for Colchester asked the PM:

“One person sleeping rough is one too many. Our party’s manifesto set out to end rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament. Given the important role that charities play in this task, will the Prime Minister join me in paying tribute to the excellent charity Crisis, which is marking its 50th anniversary?”

GREAT work in highlighting the work of Crisis.

We will reserve judgement on the merits of mentioning the Tory manifesto pledge and whether anything contained within will actually be carried out.

The PM replied:

“First, may I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, because I know this is an issue he cares about deeply and he co-chairs the all-party group on ending homelessness. He rightly says that we did have a commitment on reducing rough sleeping, with the aim to halve it by 2022 and eliminate it altogether by 2027, and £550 million has already been allocated until 2020 to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.

I am also happy to join him in paying tribute to Crisis, as it marks its 50th anniversary. Over those 50 years, it has been doing a very important job, and I will be hosting a reception for Crisis to mark its 50th anniversary in Downing Street later today.”

You couldn’t get a more vanilla response if you had handed the PM a Mr Whippy and asked her to rap her reply to the tune of Ice, Ice Baby.

But it’s all good.

We think.

It was an interesting choice of question from Quince. There was almost a passive aggressive fist shake back at the CBC Cabinet.

With the GO4 Cafe in the town centre recently closing, and the LibLabIndie Cabinet pursuing a policy of pushing homelessness out of the town centre, you can see where Quince was coming from.

Homelessness in Colchester won’t be eradicated by a single Q at PMQ’s; it won’t disappear with a CBC policy of social cleansing, either.

Time for some real questions and answers?

Old Garrison Gym and Mercury Theatre Add to the Planning Drama

A couple more plannng applications to peruse ahead of the Planning [pdf] meeting on 7 September at the Town Hall.

If we’re using words like ‘peruse’ then we should really be on stage – which is just as well seeing as these two offerings are of the theatrical variety.

Enter stage left:

The Former Garrison Gym – Change of use to Theatre Rehearsal Space, and for Community based lettings

The applicant is CBC, the agent is Colchester Borough Homes. This is why it is being heard at Planning.

All above board around these parts.

Yep.

The gym was built in 1860. Ownership was transferred to CBC in 2010.

The roof and interior was destroyed by fire in June 2013 – which was unfortunate, as from memory, CBC was about to lease it to a church.

God moves in mysterious ways, Comrades.

The proposal now is for a theatre rehearsal space, open from 8am to midnight, seven days a week.

That’s an awful lot of treading the boards…

The Historic Building Officer has commented:

“The proposed location of the Air Handling Unity will be very visible from the street and will fail to preserve the character of the locally listed building or that of the conservation area.”

But apart from that it seems pretty routine.

The Officer report recommends conditional approval.

Enter stage right on the other side of town and Planning will also consider on 7 September:

“Demolition of Mercury House and Food at the Mercury Restaurant; felling of selected trees; construction of 2-3 storey production block; construction of two-storey extension on northeast corner; infill of porte-cochere to provide internal ground floor accommodation; archaeological investigation; landscaping works; and installation of temporary site cabins and storage areas for duration of construction process.”

This being heard by Planning as the land is owned by CBC.

Some of the detail includes:

“Demolishing both the single-storey flat roof restaurant to the north-east corner.

Creating a new box office, entrance lobby, creative learning centre.

New rehearsal spaces for the theatre, drama companies, opera groups and other community spaces to the south.”

It is part of the grand plans for Mercury Rising – an £8.7M extension and refurbishment of the theatre.

This is a project that Colchester Borough Council is leading on, alongside the Mercury Theatre, and that has support and funding from the Arts Council, ECC, and “other bodies too.”

And so therefore it will be approved…

Aye.

Halloween Hanging Planning App for Castle Park

Another breakfast scan over the CBC Planning Agenda [pdf] for 7 September and another BIGGIE leaps out at us over the Bran Flakes.

It may have been the silly season up in Shrub End etc, but behind the scenes and some folk have been busy beavering away at the Town Hall.

Attention is already turning towards Halloween.

Oh Lordy.

*that isn’t meant to be blasphemous btw – and neither are the ‘executions’ planned to take place outside the Castle during October*

Yep – welcome to Doomsday.

EVERY DAY is Doomsday around Sunny Colch, some might say.

But not us.

Nope.

So on the agenda for Planning we have:

To provide Colchester with Halloween event to operate during the month of October 2017

The darkness is being put on by the Princes of Darknesses themselves, um, CBC.

This is an event being planned by the Colchester Events Company – the commercial arm of CBC.

For all the Halloween high jinks and tourism bluff, it is a money making operation for the Town Hall.

Let’s look at some of the detail in the Planning report…

“The proposed Halloween event will provide a scary, horror-based entertainment with a small area of retail providing refreshment and merchandising. The event has the potential to attract significant numbers of visitors to Colchester.

The proposed event would serve to raise the regional profile of Colchester, boost the town centre economy and create potential jobs. The potential economic benefits of this proposal for the town are considerable.”

Which doesn’t sound too scary…

The report adds:

“The submitted planning application relates to a Halloween event comprising three marquees with supporting and welfare structures and equipment. The supporting information explains that the site set-up will be from 1 October, with the event operating from 13 to 31 October 2017. The site will be cleared by 3 November 2017.”

NINETEEN chuffing days for Halloween.

Then it will be bloody Bonfire Night.

Manningtree Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins is expected to feature – at Doomsday, and not CBC Planning on 7 September…

Participants are led from the holding cells [MARQUEES] and then to the gallows where they will be hung.

It’s probably not a night for little Johnny during half term week.

One resident questioned whether the proposed “Execution Experience” was in good taste given that Colchester is a multi-cultural town, with refugees and soldiers returned from war zones.

Andy Hamilton is going to go into MELTDOWN.

#HammerTime

The CBC report adds:

“There is the potential for the event to cause noise and disturbance to local residents.”

That’s kinda the point of Halloween, right?

The original opening time of 10am – 11:30pm has been shifted back to 10:30pm.

An objection came from the nearby Greyfriars Court Property Management:

“The maximum closing time for queues is stated as 23.30 which is too late.”

The report adds:

“Noise levels from the power equipment, music and the inevitable ghostly sounds need to be controlled.”

You try controlling ghosts.

They’re REAL, yeah?

This is an ambitious planning app from CBC. It shows the direction that the commercial arm of the Council is heading towards.

We’re expecting plans for another Castle Park Christmas BIGGIE to appear soon – with CBC muscling in on the action and dosh this time, natch.

Retail, Restaurants & Flats for old Co-op Site

There’s a BIGGIE up in front of the CBC Planning Committee when it next meets [pdf] at the Town Hall on 7 September:

East of England Co-operative Society, Culver Street East and Long Wyre Street

The formal request is for:

“Change of use of the building with associated physical works to allow a mix of A1 retail units, A3 restaurant units, along with 24 residential apartments and ancillary storage and service/access areas.”

This translates as two shops and five [FIVE] restaurants on the ground level, and 24 flats on the second and third floors.

Retail on the ground floor? Flats up above?

GENIUS of a planning idea. Someone should commission a £30K survey just to prove the point…

But anyway.

Back to the Co-op.

The building was built back in 1925. The CBC Officer’s report paints a pretty depressing picture of retail in the immediate area right now.

It is as blunt as:

“An overall impression of economic decline.”

A site visit took place earlier this month. CBC found that 30% of retail sites were vacant along Culver Street East, Long Wyre Street, and Priory Walk.

You can’t pin this one on bloody Tollgate, Comrades.

One objection has been received for the Co-op application:

“If Colchester Borough Council seeks to promote the retail importance of the Town Centre, it should not allow the loss of prime retail space in the Town Centre.”

Which kinda misses the point…

The report looks in detail at design and heritage impacts.

It concludes with approval for the plans, subject to a legal agreement.

A contribution will be sought towards ‘public realm’ [PAVING STONES] improvements.

Hythe Happenings

It’s all happening at Cabinet on 6 September.

It’s all happening down at the Hythe.

It’s all happening along Haven Road.

We’re not talking about the shit drains either – except we kinda are.

On the agenda is:

Hythe Development Proposals

CBC has been beavering away behind the scenes with the Legacy Foundation in trying to find a solution for the Hythe.

We’re not entirely sure why a solution is needed. It remains one of the last remaining under-developed locations in the town.

The history and heritage of the old leaps out at you along the riverbank.

It would be a little rubbish if this became another mini-clone Colchester.

Hey hoe.

Hey hoe Hythe.

The LibLabIndie lot have been asked to consider:

“To agree in principle support for the proposed scheme at the Hythe and to agree that further work is carried out to develop a full business case which will be brought back to Cabinet by the end of the year.”

We all know that they haven’t really been asked to consider this. You don’t go round beavering behind the scenes with the likes of the Legacy Foundation only to then tell them to do one.

The agenda item will be agreed.

We LOVE Cabinet.

Yep.

The detail of the Cabinet claims that £10M of Government Infrastructure Funding is available.

This will be invested for the:

“Regeneration of significantly constrained and contaminated brownfield land at the Hythe sporting facilities, new homes and community services.”

Why does everything have to be regenerated?

Specifically we’re talking about:

“Several hundred new homes with potentially 35% affordable housing.”

This is crap.

50% affordable (whatever that now means…) should be the default aspiration for any ambitious local authority. Accept 40% as a minimum.

The £10M will apparently also:

“Promote investment activity in the Hythe area especially on the river front. This project could act as a catalyst for further regeneration in the area. Which in turn could address longstanding environmental issues such as local flooding.”

How?

The Hythe hasn’t exactly been short on private accommodation for the student market.

Yet still King Canute is not having much luck down by those muddy banks.

The Cabinet report becomes comical when it states without any self-awareness:

“The Council could develop the site itself, however, this carries a high degree of risk as the sites are particularly constrained, the council would be taking all of the development and infrastructure risk on a large-scale project.”

BLOODY GARDEN VILLAGES!

And we trust this shower to develop 40,000+ homes elsewhere in the borough?

The report also claims that the area has a:

“lack of active sports facilities and limited health facilities.”

Apart from the two gyms within walking distance of Haven Road…

It also adds that the scheme will:

“Develop a holistic programme of community cohesion.”

We have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what the chuffers this means.

It’s all happening at CBC Cabinet on 6 September.

We think.