December 11 2013 Latest news:
By Sam Russell
Friday, August 23, 2013
A cabinet member pushing a controversial footbridge scheme has told residents there is “no evidence” behind their fears.
Great Yarmouth borough councillor Bernard Williamson hit back as trees were chopped down by the proposed footbridge site, over the dyke between Castle Green and Blake Drive in Bradwell.
A consultation process is ongoing, and council chiefs have insisted the clearance work was pre-planned and does not mean they are ignoring the views of residents.
Mr Williamson, who is cabinet member for transformation and regeneration at Great Yarmouth Borough Council, is currently on holiday but released a further written statement this week.
It reads: “This council has always encouraged everyone to share their views on these proposals – and indeed the council organised two further consultation events this week to aid this. For me, the facts are clearly in favour of the plans. The area was originally designated for a play space for both Castle Green and Blake Drive.
“GYBC has a duty to provide open space for all residents including those of the Little Acorns children’s care unit, which is in favour of this scheme. This is the only suitable open space within walking distance of Castle Green, which is further supported by the fact that children have naturally tried to gain access to it.”
Blake Drive residents have rallied against the proposals, fearing they will attract children to an unsafe area, increase anti-social behaviour and create security problems by opening a thoroughfare.
When the scheme was last attempted in 2005, police said better lighting and CCTV should be installed.
But Mr Williamson, whose Claydon ward includes Castle Green, which currently has no direct access to a play area, wrote: “The only thing the bridge would increase is children’s safety: there is no evidence it would make any difference to litter, anti-social behaviour, or security.
“The wild area would remain untouched and the area is so large that any play activity would not impinge upon residents in Blake Drive.
“The bits of boarding and chairs, used as a crossing by the children, plus a sapling leaning into the water at this point, have recently now been removed on the Blake Drive side as these were a hazard to the children and a potential watercourse blockage.
“However new boards and other debris have since been placed across the dyke, indicating the children are not deterred by the removal of the items.
“The council has a duty of care to the public. If these plans to provide safe access to the green space are not approved, there could well be a tragedy.”
Graham Plant, borough councillor for Bradwell North ward, which includes Blake Drive, said residents remained sceptical.
Consultation was originally set to conclude on August 9, but was pushed back to August 31 after protest.
“I don’t understand the urgency,” said Mr Plant. “If it’s going to be done in such a manner at least stand up and back up the way you’re doing it. If you want to progress a scheme in the manner it’s being progressed, you can’t go on holiday while Rome burns.”
He said residents “quite rightly aren’t believing the council” about the reason for clearance work, and feel a decision has been taken.
“Maintenance works would be a general clearing - not specific to one spot,” he reasoned.
He added money from the Cotman Drive development - earmarked to fund the £30,000 bridge - should have been spent within 12 months of the development’s completion in 2001 and within the border of the development.
A borough council spokesman said maintaining the dyke is the responsibility of the Internal Drainage Board, and “much earlier” this year a contractor carried out pre-planned clearance works on the Townlands side of the dyke.
The spokesman added: “This was planned maintenance and had nothing to do with the plans currently under consultation.”