SOAG's 2001 Campaign
New Outline Plans Arrive
SOAG fight the plans for a convenience store topped with apartments.
New outline plans for a four-storey apartment block are also opposed, but the Council approve them.
We call a public meeting, engage a barrister, and hear the Council decide to sell part of the gardens. Fylde Council also get a mention in the "Rotten Boroughs" page of "Private Eye" magazine. Our barrister says there are grounds to consider the gardens a charitable gift.
15 August 2001
The Fylde Borough Planning Committee approve Newfield Jones outline planning application subject to confirmation at the Council meeting.
01 October 2001
The Fylde Borough Council meeting approve the application. Minutes of the planning meeting contain a resolution that was not proposed seconded or discussed at the planning committee, it was concocted after the planning meeting, and added to the minutes to make it appear to have been a decision of the Committee.
Future Council Meeting
The Policy & Resources Committee will consider the sale on 26th November, and the Council will review that decision on 3 December.
08 October 2001
Garden History Society asks Government Office North West for the application to be called in.
16 October 2001
A Supporters of Ashton Gardens coffee morning was held on Saturday 27 October at the United Reformed Church Hall 10.00 to 12.00 noon. Coffee, tombola, bric-a-brac, cakes and more. The Coffee Morning raised over £200 toward the gardens.
31 October 2001
A public meeting to oppose the sale of the Ashton Institute was held on 30th October, 7.30 pm. United Reformed Church Hall, St Annes. (near Ashton Gardens).
Over 100 people were able to express their view. Almost all spoke against. Stalwart Councillors Mrs Pagett, Mrs. Wilson, Jealous, Walton and Wilson were joined by Councillor Tim Ashton in expressing disapproval at the plans. Councillor Greene and one member of the public spoke in favour of them.
The meeting resolved "This meeting calls on the Council to respect the gift of Lord Ashton and refuse to dispose of any of the land in Ashton Gardens which rightfully belongs to the inhabitants of the town" Put to the vote this was carried almost unanimously.
22 November 2001
The Supporters of Ashton Gardens group launch an appeal for funds to mount a legal challenge to the Council. The aim being to prevent the sale of the land that was given to the inhabitants of the town for all time by Lord Ashton. Donations, large or small, please to The Hon Treasurer, Mrs. Val Andrews, 10 Chatsworth Road, St Annes. She said "We are asking people to make cheques etc payable to "SUPPORTERS OF ASHTON GARDENS" and we need around a thousand pounds initially for specialist legal advice."
16-29 November 2001
The satirical magazine "Private Eye" carried the following on its "Rotten Boroughs" page
INDEPENDENT-cum-Conservative Fylde council in Lancashire has some noble "corporate objectives". Its primary "core values" are:" Respect and enrich local democracy" and "Listen to local people and adopt an open style" Presumably this was uppermost in the mind of planning chairman Cllr Trevor Fiddler [sic] when he responded to a 3,788 signature petition from residents of the genteel borough. The locals are angry at plans to flog off part of the historic Ashton Gardens park for an undisclosed sum, demolish its charming Victorian pavilion, and chop down a grove of trees to make way for a speculative four-storey block of 57 flats. Adopting his best listening and open style, Cllr Fiddler declared "It doesn't make any difference if 2,000, 3,000, 10,000 or the whole borough signed it." Planning permission for the eyesore was duly granted.
We thank the Eye for bringing this to the wider attention of the nation.
26 November 2001
The Council's Policy and Resources Committee, meeting in secret session, considered a report titled "Ashton Gardens". Stories began to circulate in the town that the Committee will recommend the Council to sell the land, and that Dransfield properties has bought property adjoining the park.
Word filtering out from the Policy meeting suggested that St Annes Councillor Alfred Jealous, who has legal experience, proposed that a decision should be deferred pending the outcome of legal moves by the Supporters of Ashton Gardens, but he was attacked with vitriolic abuse.
29 November 2001
Treasurer Val Andrews reports that funds are arriving for the legal challenge, and the Supporters of Ashton Gardens group commits itself to raising the money by instructing a specialist London Barrister. Thank you to those of you who have sent a donation already, but more is still needed. If you feel able, please send a donation to The Hon Treasurer, Mrs. Val Andrews, 10 Chatsworth Road, St Annes. Cheques etc should be payable to SUPPORTERS OF ASHTON GARDENS
29 November 2001
A silent public protest is to be mounted on Monday 3rd December at the St Annes Town Hall.
The Council will consider whether to sell the land and although an increasing number of Councillors have decided to oppose the sale, the plan could still be passed.
If you value your park, please arrive at the Town Hall at about 6.20pm to stand in quiet protest so that Councillors going into the building will be aware of how strongly we feel it should not be sold.
If a decision to sell is made, it is likely that the proposal would have to be publicly advertised and formal objections sought.
3 December 2001
Tonight, 40 to 50 residents of all ages assembled on a cold windy night to watch their "open" and "listening" Council debate plans to sell off part of Ashton Gardens.
What took place was a sham to democracy, an insult to the people who attended, and something that brought shame to a body councillors entrusted with the honour of serving their community.
By a piece of procedural sleight of hand, those Councilors wishing to raise the matter were denied the opportunity to do so.
It was clear to all the Councillors and to the officers that the normally empty Council Chamber had all the public seats taken and many members of the public were standing along three sides of the chamber in anticipation of hearing those Councillors wishing to speak. Clearly there was public interest in the matter, and clearly, several members of the Council were taken aback when the acting Chief Executive pronounced that the minutes of the meeting had been approved and no further debate on the matter could be undertaken.
No-one should take any credit for that disreputable performance which was a true affront to democracy.
The Deputy Mayor, whose role it should be to order the meeting and provide the opportunity for Councillors to be called to speak, singularly failed to do so.
The officers advising the Councillors and administering the meeting demonstrated their non-existent commitment to either openness or democracy and should hang their heads in shame for what they allowed to happen.
Those Councillors who shouted down Councillor Mrs. Pagett when, having struggled to the meeting against medical advice and supported by a crutch, she tried in vain to raise the matter with the Deputy Mayor, should certainly ask themselves what they have to take pride in unless it is their deviousness.
Thankfully there is still some way to go before this matter is finished, but sadly, it appears to be a matter that will have to be pursued by forces of greater significance than the Council.
The specialist charity law barrister engaged by the Supporters of Ashton Gardens had just provided her opinion on the matter and whilst the Solicitor acting for the group is still studying the detail, it is clear that Lord Ashton's gift was a charitable one, and there are sufficient grounds for the Attorney General and the Charity Commission to be asked to take up the matter and prosecute action by the Council for failing to register the land with the Charity Commission.
Furthermore, because the proposed sale of part of the Gardens will be contrary to that charity and against its interests, the sale should be prevented, and the Attorney General, as the Crown's protector of charities, will be asked to intervene in the matter. We will await his engagement with interest.
Donations toward the legal costs are still needed, and cheques etc payable to "Supporters of Ashton Gardens" should be sent to The Hon. Treasurer, Mrs. Val Andrews, 10 Chatsworth Road, St Annes.
20 December 2001
Expert Says "Watch It"! The specialist charity law barrister engaged by the Supporters of Ashton Gardens and paid for by your kind donations, has given her advice. She says that a Court has ground to believe that the gift of Lord Ashton constituted an implied Charitable Trust.
This means that the Council should register the land with the Charity Commission, which in turn means that if they want to sell any of the land, they have to follow the procedure of the charity rules.
How sad is it when the community has itself to go to law to get its own Council to protect the parks and open spaces that they are trusted to look after on our behalf.