Wednesday 4 March 2015

Bending over backwards

Next Monday's Executive Board meeting has a couple of interesting items. The first concerns County Hall's evangelical friends at the Towy Community Church, or the Xcel bowling alley as it's more comfortably known.

The Item concerns a breach of the legal agreement by the church for using parts of the building designated for phase 2 of the project. Phase 2 consists of the creation of a 600 seater 'auditorium' (a church) and various 'therapy' rooms and offices. The church has breached the agreement by using some of the space to house it's furniture recycling facility before presenting detailed plans of the phase 2 works.

Allowing this current breach to continue might appear reasonable but this agreement was put in place to prevent 'piecemeal development or occupation' and to ensure the church were able to deliver phase 2 of the agreed scheme. If they were not able to honour the agreement, the council would then have had the the option to secure possession of the remaining part of the property for an alternative use. How phase 2 will be funded remains to be seen...Cneifiwr's most recent post on the subject is well worth a read.

The council, so far, has been extraordinarily generous towards it's evangelical partners giving them over £1.4m in land deals, loans and grants. Requests for correspondence between County Hall and the church were flatly refused, in fact it's turned out to be something of a sensitive subject. All this, including the controversy over the proposed Mercy Ministry, has been covered on this and Cneifiwr's blog.

The church are now seeking to alter the agreement to 'legalise' the breach.

What strikes me as odd is that the church would have been very well aware that parts of the building were legally off limits and I can only assume that they would have also been well aware that County Hall would happily iron out any legal creases.

We can also safely assume the new agreement will be rubber-stamped on Monday. The added threat that the council's lease could become void will help. When mere mortals have been found to be in breach of some council agreement or other, including building regulations or planning permission, they are swiftly hauled over the coals. Perhaps if you let them know you're a believer in the literal truth of the bible, it might help...

Bending over backwards for a small fundamentalist Christian organisation may be entirely reasonable but we can only speculate as to why County Hall refused to fly the Rainbow flag...

The second item concerns the Carmarthen West development - this clearly relates to the £5m link road and will be held behind closed doors. Cneifwr has covered this and also explains how the council are funding the landed gentry of England.

Before I go, there is yet another full council meeting on Friday to rubber stamp the budget by formally setting the council tax. The meeting is only listed for two hours and includes a notice of motion to retain the police helicopter base at Pembrey. This is a worthy cause but one which I am sure everyone will be in agreement on and I daresay will want to speak on.

All this leaves little time for the item on the recent White Paper regarding local government reform. As I said at the beginning of February, this is an important consultation and if the council are going to provide a corporate response, it must have as full input from all councillors, it's not something that should be left to Legal Linda to fill in in her tea break.

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