Today was a dark day in the history of Cumbernauld House…frankly it was a dark day in the history of the entire town. Not to overegg the point but it was a dark day for democracy. When the views of ALL our elected officials are ignored by a committee from another town we’re really stuck.
So let me talk you through the day and try really hard not to lapse into too much of a rant. We started out the day at the civic centre and our group of four speakers (our solicitor, our data guy, our chair and a representative of Cumbernauld community forum, Cumbernauld disability access panel and Condorratt community council (one person representing all three groups)) sat down in the chamber. We were joined by the applicant’s solicitor, architect and a former supporter of the house in a Mr John Kirkhope but no applicant himself.
The procedure is fairly strict so the planning department gets their say then the applicant then the objectors. We all had our say and I have to say the guys on our side stood up very well – we presented a strong well reasoned argument which was based on what we could say rather than what we wanted to say.
The floor is then opened to questions from the parties but strangely we could reply to questions but could not ask further questions on a single subject which seemed ludicrous to me.
Then it was the turn of the councillors. The Cumbernauld councillors tried very hard on our behalf and we can only thank Councillors Johnston, McCulloch and Homer who were on the planning committee and who spoke up on our behalf and to councillors Murray and Grant who also spoke up but were not on the committee. It was around this time that it descended a little into farce.
There were a number of comments made by other councillors (non Cumbernauld) which showed blatantly that they had not bothered to read anything prior to this meeting. One member a Councillor Taggart from Murdostoun (who lives in Wishaw) stated at one point that he had read all about Colzium House and the architect John Adam! Now bear in mind that this was towards the end of the meeting for it not to have sunk in that we were talking about Cumbernauld House and WILLIAM Adam was mentioned many times…is frankly outrageous.
One councillor from Motherwell North a Councilor McKenna actually mocked the Cumbernauld House Trust by stating that if we had 3000 members why didn’t we form a neighbourhood watch and all patrol the park to make it safer! I was under the impression that was what we paid our taxes for. Two other councillors a Brooks from Coatbridge South and a Maginnis from Coatbridge West also spoke out against us. Firstly claiming that we hadn’t presented an alternative (when we had presented as much as we could at this type of committee) then they both talked at length about issues of historic buildings in their areas and rubbished anything we were saying.
The North corridor divide which we’ve tried to avoid talking about throughout our campaign was in full display this morning and it was a sad thing to see. The council voted 9 to 4 in favour of the proposal with all 4 votes being from Cumbernauld councillors.
We’ve had letters of support from Gregg McClymont MP, Cathy Craigie MSP, Jamie Hepburn MSP, Hugh O’Donnell MSP, Margaret Mitchell MSP and now we’ve had support from 6 of our councillors but it seems not matter how our views are put across we were not going to win this one.
When we were talking, and frankly throughout, the elected officials heckled and harangued our speakers which was frankly like something from the playground. It was an abominable display from some of the councillors. We are not elected officials and we had been warned in advance not to rise to their baiting but these are people who are elected to represent us and to treat members of the public like this was a disgrace – would they treat their own constituents with such disregard? I doubt it. As I stated we are not politicians and this was tantamount to bullying when we could not argue back for fear of losing the vote (which we lost anyway).
The proposal was passed with a large number of conditions in there. The conditions should ensure at least a modicum of a decent outcome for the house. It’s up to us though to make sure we keep the pressure on and make sure nothing is brushed under the carpet. It’s not over yet guys but today the elected officials of Motherwell, Wishaw and Coatbridge have dealt a massive blow to the town of Cumbernauld….