Welwyn Hatfield Council leader: ‘Consultation could stop projects’

PUBLISHED: 17:00 15 February 2014

Football pitches at King George V playing fields

Football pitches at King George V playing fields

Archant

The findings of a council probe into a failed football pitches project have been dismissed – by the authority’s own leader.

Cllr John Dean, leader of Welwyn Hatfield CouncilCllr John Dean, leader of Welwyn Hatfield Council

Welwyn Hatfield Council’s John Dean claimed consultation would not have saved the £200,000 all-weather facility in WGC’s King George V playing area.

It was closed in November 2012 by the borough’s own environmental health team after noise complaints from residents, just 12 months after they opened.

An eight month investigation followed which found council contractor Finesse Leisure, did not seek the views of residents, ward councillors or sports experts before building it.

The social overview and scrutiny sub-committee probe recommended consultation should take place on a all major projects.

Lynn Chesterman (Welwyn Garden City South)
Welwyn Hatfield DistrictLynn Chesterman (Welwyn Garden City South) Welwyn Hatfield District

Conservative councillor Dean disagreed and made his “personal” feelings heard at a Cabinet meeting last Tuesday, when the report was recommended.

He said: “I don’t think the views of the few should affect the enjoyment of the many.

“That’s the disagreement we could fall in if we consult too heavily.”

“[There could be projects] that will be very good for community and two or three people object and we have to stop the whole thing.”

The report also found that residents only found out about the scheme – which was paid for with a loan from taxpayers – after it was built.

Cllr Dean also rejected this conclusion, claiming “everyone” from ward councillors to residents “knew what was being built”.

He said: “They had nothing to say about it before the noise reared its ugly head.”

The Conservative was rebuked by Labour’s Cllr Lynn Chesterman, who led the council inquest.

“I knew as a ward councillor, and I knew as a parent and grandparent who stands on the sidelines that pitches were going to be put on King George,” she said from the public gallery.

“At no time were residents, parents or [King George FC] told or made aware of where these pitches were going.”

However both parties agreed the pitches should be moved, with Finesse seeking another £250,000 loan to resite them.

The report was passed by Cabinet.


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