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countering the spin and providing the balance


Flying a Kite

Flying a KiteYou'd be hard pressed to invent a worse advert for a seaside tourist town.

Just before the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, you issue a press release to say that you're banning kite flying on the beach and all public open spaces. It doesn't matter that you qualify it by saying it doesn't affect single line kites, the message goes out that Lytham St Anne's and the Fylde don't welcome anyone with a kite.

Many families are deciding where to have their day out (or their weekend away) in the days leading up to Easter weekend, and the last thing our tourism industry needs is publicity like this.

It shows just how far those now running Fylde Council have lost touch with reality.It also shows that serious flaws in judgement can arise when you let a Politburo group of only seven (or even worse when a single 'briefholder') make decisions that ought to be subjected to the broader and deeper knowledge and experience of the whole Fylde Council.

Fylde certainly has lost its way on tourism. It now self-evidently fails to recognise its role in relation to St Anne's most important industry, and it appears indifferent to whether the tourism industry survives or not.

By adopting this position, it fails to provide the support that the Promotion of Tourism Act enabled. This means we have less visitors, less employment, less trade, less prosperity, and less economic growth, as money earned outside Fylde fails to be attracted and spent here.

These, of course, are all things for which Fylde Council is responsible. Only the Council can set the image and identity of the area.

Fylde is failing the tourism industry (and thus its residents), in three ways.

Firstly it is withdrawing from its traditional role of supporting the tourism economy by staging and supporting events that attract visitors - no more Lytham Proms, no more kite festivals that attract thousands who spend here.

Second it fails to adequately recognise the importance of the beach for wind based recreational pursuits such as sand yachting and kite based activities. St Anne's beach is one of the best in the UK for wind based activity, and it is of international standing.

Who else would not maximise the tourism benefits of their natural assets? Can you imagine the Lake District not making the most of its lakes and mountains? Can you see Norfolk not exploiting its broads? No, it's only the present administration at myopic Fylde that fails to make use of the talents it was given. Their approach defies logic.

Consider this: There was a club whose members operated sand yachts on St Anne's beach (which is owned by the Council). Without intending to, their activities gave rise to a situation that inadvertently caused the death of a visitor to St Anne's. As a result, the Council prevented the club from carrying on its activities, and all people were prevented from using the beach for sand yachting and similar activity.

There was another club, this time a nightclub, operating in a back street in St Anne's. Without intending to, their activities gave rise to a situation which inadvertently caused the death of a young man on some steps (Which were owned by the Council). The Council did not prevent the nightclub from carrying out its activities, they introduced a scheme to give out lollipops to those leaving the club in the small hours.

Now, in a knee-jerk reaction to a relatively minor incident, they take the draconian step of implementing a ban on kiting activity, and even stop small children flying kites if they have two strings.

They are behaving as though they have no responsibility for commercial benefits, recreational pursuits, and normal seaside traditions. Like Pontius Pilate, they wash their hands and attempt to distance themselves from everything except the cotton wool padded, polythene wrapped safety of jobsworths hiding behind the politically correct, nanny state ban they have introduced.

Third, instead of being pro-active and encouraging sport and recreational activity that leads to healthier lifestyles, and providing our young people with positive and challenging activity that keeps them away from drugs and nightclubs, and instead of supporting self-reliant clubs whose very existence generates the social glue that binds society together, Fylde Council takes the easy way out, implements a ban, and fails its community.

But there is another failure that is even more serious. A systemic and institutional failure. The one that allows so few people, with limited breadth of experience, to take decisions in the name of the full Council. This Politburo Cabinet system is a disaster, and need to be reversed as soon as possible.


It was only when the weight of public opinion against the kite ban showed up their incompetence, and their failure to act in the interests of the community, that their tune has changed. They now say the ban was only a temporary measure, and they will get professional advice about what they should do.
What you see here is the squirming and sliding that is the hallmark of this administration that thinks we are all stupid enough to be taken in by their spin.

Look at the wording of their first press release on this topic "This ban is in response to a recent incident and following an assessment of the risks involved, we feel that this is an appropriate measure to ensure the health and safety of everybody on the beaches....."

The clear statement here is that they have undertaken a risk assessment and, as a result, introduced a ban.

A week or so later, when the public protests started, according to 'The Citizen' this changed to "What we are now in the process of doing is conducting a long-term safety assessment looking at how we can safely incorporate all of these activities on our parks beaches and open spaces. Its not a blanket ban, its a short term measure which we had to put in place to ensure public safety"

Thus begins the journey from Fylde to Damascus.

The next staging post, courtesy of a quotation from the 'Express' was "...we will look at more detailed risk assessments to address the safety issues on beaches and foreshores of Fylde."

Then (again from 'The Citizen')

"Fylde Council are going to undertake a major risk assessment of all activities carried out in open space, starting with kite surfing."

This smells like a pile of money being thrown at the problem, something dwarfed only by the scale of public outrage at the incompetent way the matter is being handled.

Then comes "We are now looking at a more permanent solution which would allow everybody to enjoy the open spaces of Fylde."

Then, after banning a family using a child's kite

"It is difficult to make a judgement on whether to ban all kites or the type of kites that have been identified as a potential risk...."

Then, in an exercise in monumental lunacy, they announce that the cost of investigating whether its safe to fly a kite on the beach will be 15,000. You don't know whether to laugh or cry. Adding insult to injury, the Councillor in charge of it says the experts they expect to appoint will be investigating for "as long as it takes."
So much for the holiday trade.

After a deluge of protest letters to the local press, the tone starts to change, and we hear "I am sure we will be able to come up with a compromise."

The most recent comment (given to "The Gazette") has become "As the landowner of the beach the Council's aim is to allow these activities to take place side by side, in a safe, controlled environment. We ask people to bear with us during this period of consultation and risk assessment."

And the Damascenian conversion is almost complete.

counterbalance predicts the final piece in this sorry tale will be the headline "Conservatives save kite flying on the beach."

As a footnote to this saga, readers of counterbalance are urged to pick up a copy of Fylde Council's own Holiday Guide for 2006.

The cover photo is a family holding a large kite on Lytham Green. Hopefully this kite only has one string - otherwise it's all a bit pointless.

Page 16, headed 'Excellence in sport and leisure' carries a whole page photo of someone who is either a life-size marionette in the sea, or a kitesurfer enjoying a flight through St Anne's surf (which, of course is now banned for "as long as it takes").
You will also see page 19 which outlines events and attactions together with its photo of the multi-line monster kite that was a feature of previous Kite Festivals, (but is now banned).

And on page 54 it carries a third of a page advertising photograph for what is proudly proclaimed as 'The 12th Fylde Kite Festival on 10 & 11 June' which, of course, will be a little less spectacular than usual this year, because only toy kites can be flown rather than the ones in the picture - assuming it is allowed to go ahead at all.

And all this because there is no longer proper decision making. It is concentrated in too few hands.

Dated:  22 March 2006


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