As Paul Norton of the Ipswich Spy parish advised, I attended the South East Area Committee last night. The acronym for this Ipswich Borough Council committee is SEAC, which could have been devised by Armando Iannucci for the BBC’s The Thick of It. There was also a distinctive Orwellian feel to the meeting with one of the agenda items called ‘Community Intelligence’.
The reason for me attending SEAC was to raise the ongoing saga of the incomplete footpath between Gladstone Road and Foxhall Road, despite being approved by councillors (on my committee) in August 2009!
I won’t rehearse the story of council incompetence again, it can be read here. At SEAC, Cllr Liz Harsant raised the absent footpath under Agenda item ‘6. Responses to Public Questions Received and Open Discussion on Local Issues’ and explained that the footpath creation had been approved three times by councillors but still civil servants at the Borough Council are saying they need also to get Secretary of State approval.
After Cllr Harsant introduced the issue, I was given the opportunity to speak by Cllr Keith Rawlingson, who it has to be said did a very good job at chairing the meeting last night. I added meat to the bone by outlining the precise dates when councillors made a decision on the path and then asked two questions to officers present:
1. Is the Scheme with the IBC Legal department or not?
2. When will the Footpath Creation order be advertised at either end of the current dirt track?
Mr Mark Wedgwood from the Borough Council’s Highways department said the scheme is with the Legal department and that they are drawing up a Footpath Creation order. Mr Wedgwood then said the order will be advertised “shortly”. When pressed by me for a precise time scale he said he would provide it to Cllr Harsant and myself.
Lo and behold, this morning my wife in her capacity as a councillor received an email from Charlotte Meadows of the Council’s legal department stating the footpath creation order will advertised on 20th March, including at each end of the path. I am sure Cllr Harsant’s and my intervention at last night’s SEAC meeting was purely coincidental…
The following new time scale has also been released by Mr Wedgwood:
20 March 2012
· Seal order
· Post notice on site
· Place notice and plan on deposit
· Circulate notice to all consultees
· Provide all adjoining owners with copy notice, plan and extract from Highways Act.
17 April – deadline expires. (extended this by a couple of days to take account of Easter).
On the assumption that we do not receive any objections:
19 April 2012 – (allowed a couple of extra days to allow for late objections)
· Advertise notice of confirmation
· Circulate confirmation notice to all interested parties
· Serve separate notice on adjoining owners referring to compensation
· Send copy to Ordnance Survey
On the assumption that we do not receive any objections, the footpath creation order will come into full operation on 19 April.
Works can then be programmed.
It is of some concern that during Mr Wedgwood’s answers to me at the meeting last night he said two things which could still scupper the whole process. Firstly, if there are objections by residents bordering the path, then the scheme will need to passed to the Secretary of State for Transport for a decision and, secondly, Suffolk County Council would still need to adopt the footpath before any works could take place. Why did officers not start the adoption process with the county council when the path was approved on 6th August 2009?
So we are not out of the woods yet. Could we reach the third year anniversary of the first approval by councillors before the first paving slab is laid?