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Short Sighted Vision

Short SightedVISION: 2020 is shortening to 2012

Another item on Wednesday's Cabinet agenda is about the future vision  for Fylde - and Lytham St Annes in particular. It's also about 'regeneration.'

It's one of the more convoluted, rambling and twisting reports we've seen on Cabinet's agenda.

 Usually that means its hiding some bad news (which it is), and it has been difficult for the author to find a palatable way of saying what's in it,  or its been changed so many times it has become a 'camel report' (like the horse designed by a committee). And it's probably within that category as well.

The headline bad news that's buried in the report is that the former Commissar's much vaunted 'Classic Resort' scheme that was going to spectacularly transform St Annes Promenade has gone the way of Monty Python's Parrot. It is a dead scheme. It is no more.

So what's on the cards now?

Well, the report begins by setting out the result of the former Commissar's '2020 Vision' consultation, and various other measures connected with regeneration.

It also sets out - even before the  ink is dry on Fylde's budget - to Vire (that's 'transfer' to ordinary folk) some capital spending from existing capital regeneration schemes to some projects suggested in the report to the extent allowed by virements, and subject to the final, detailed schemes and costs being presented to Cabinet.

The report says the '2020 Vision' document has been amended only slightly from its original form in light of the public consultation (Nothing new there then), but it has been "further developed"

As an aside at this point we couldn't help smiling (and we're sure our readers will also smile) at the consultation comment made by one (unknown) resident (and it wasn't us!) who said in reference to the closed swimming pool "Coombes should be strapped to Ashton and both thrown into the deep end of what is left. With a bit of luck there’ll be no water in it."

The 'Lytham in Bloom' group - with their amazing horticultural improvements in Lytham, have clearly demonstrated both what can, and indeed should, be done to improve the area, (because they self evidently understand, and are doing, what local people really appreciate) seem to have spent quite some time making comments, because the officers have not felt able to reproduce them all, and have just selected a few to publish.

The first suggestion from Lytham in Bloom is to have an alternative vision: "Lytham St. Annes is to be a vibrant green oasis in which people choose to live, work and invest and which is ever more attractive to visitors".

The officers dismissive answer to this suggestion is "Whilst the desire to amend the vision to this is understandable it is not considered appropriate at this time."

We think the wrong people are doing the wrong jobs here.

The 'Lytham In Bloom' folk should be running the Council, and those presently running the Council should be doing the gardening.

Anyway, back to the former 2020 Vision document, readers will remember it banged-on at length about 'Classic Resort' status for the holiday area and how lucky we were to have put all that effort into being chosen by the North West Development Agency as a pilot area for the 'Classic Resort' scheme, only to find that since St Eric has abolished the NWDA that's all gone up the spout and another shedload of speculative officer time has been lost to antiquity.

So now something 'more local' is going to be tried.

The former 2020 Vision also set out to be the big "strategic regeneration plan" to secure external funding from (mostly) the NWDA.

Well that's up the spout too of course. So that's another load of wasted effort because the oral promise of funding from NWDA was withdrawn as part of the current year government cuts.

So, as the report says "The possibility of attracting external funding for these projects is now remote"

It also says "The scale of the improvements as envisaged will, therefore, now not go ahead. However, it is anticipated that Members will want to do whatever is possible to enhance the local area in the build up to the 2012 Open in order to make the most of the visitor economy legacy."

That's poppycock. There's next to no "visitor economy legacy" to make the most of. Where on earth do these people get this claptrap from?

The Hotels fill up at inflated room rates. A few smart people hire out their houses or parking spaces and get a holiday of their own on the proceeds, and the Council joins the 'rent it out' frenzy as it gets to hire out a few bits of land nearby for corporate hospitality.

Other than that, the whole aim of the Police and the R&A Open Golf Organisers is to get people to temporary car parks in fields on the outskirts of town as smoothly as possible. Then to bus them in to the course, and at the end of the day, to bus them straight out again where they can pick up their cars and drive away easily.

For security reasons (and that will be even tighter this year), the Police absolutely will not want anyone wandering off their straight and narrow route, and it's entirely possible that apart from the evenings where people from the hotels might be about more, that the town centres will be even quieter than usual.

What we do get out of the golf is a huge amount in international publicity, and that's worth all the fuss.

But the report to Cabinet goes on about opportunities for "Capitalising on the 12 month build up to the event, increasing the number of golfers visiting the region prior to the event"

Region? Who mentioned the R word? We thought this was Fylde we're talking about?  Has our Town hall taken responsibility for the whole region now that St Eric has very sensibly abolished the discredited and unwanted regional agenda?

It also talks about "Creating a reputation as a high quality visitor destination" This, of course, is all solid 'motherhood and apple pie', and nothing more than has been done by former Tourism officers and departments for generations. It's what Tourism Officers do.

But this time it's not going to be left to a Tourism Officer, we're going to have a Project Board, and a bright and sparkling new 'Action Plan' involving Lancashire County Council, Fylde Council and the Local Strategic Partnership.

Sadly, the 'Action Plan' is all headline grabbing PRspeak and Managementspeak ( eg "POLISH LANCASHIRE’S COASTAL GEM – Make Lytham St. Annes and the Fylde sparkle")  Oh Dear!

So we can all stand by for another big waste of officer time on the one hand, and LCC looking to piggyback on Fylde's success in attracting the Open here on the other and, of course the LSP, as usual, wasting the money from 'second homes' council tax that would otherwise be offsetting the Council tax we pay.

But if you're a Regeneration Officer with a job, you have to do something, so as a start, Fylde's "Regen Team" have come up with some, ahem, different ideas. The "2020 Vision" has been remade as "2012"

You might call it their "Plan B"

Now, instead of talking about 'Plan A's' megabucks - like the 2020 Vision's Jolly Green Giant Hotel on the Pleasure Island site, and the monster regeneration of St Annes promenade that was set out and we reported in 'Masterplan Considered' in 2008. No, we're now talking about Fylde spending £150,000 on a tidy up, including

St Annes:
- A contribution to LCC (for work on Orchard Road) £50,250
- Creating a "Boulevard of Nations" (Oh Dear!) £28,000
- Pier forecourt & Prom works £20,000
- Station improvements £15,000
- Something called "Pristine Place" £9,250

Ansdell
- Station improvements £10,000

Lytham
- Station improvements £17,500

This money is all due to come from the leftovers of previous schemes like the "Conservation Area Restoration Scheme" and the redevelopment of "St. Annes Town Centre" and a Tourist Board and Council funded project for "public realm refurbishment in St. Annes town centre and promenade"

The report also hopes the LSP and Lancs. County will chip in as well to swell the coffers.

But there's a problem.

There isn't time now to mess about with things like tenders and quotations, and there's not enough in the kitty to pay for the schemes to be drawn up and tendered anyway (the officers tell us), so they're planning to let Lancashire County Council staff do all the design and professional services work. LCC have also kindly offered to let Fylde use their "One Team" approach which - so far as we can see - aims to reduce the cost by not following good practice and getting competitive tenders for work

Quote from the report: “One of the objectives of the LCC One Team approach is to implement efficiencies and improvement in the Environment Directorate and LCCG management, operation and delivery of highway services. In moving away from client contractor arrangements LCC are realising efficiencies..."

Fylde's officers go on to say "The use of the ‘one-team’ approach is considered value for money by LCC in terms of tendering and project delivery. It is therefore considered value for money for the Council to utilise this service for the procurement and delivery of the capital project outlined in the main body of this report."

A loose translation of that suggests to us that at Fylde, what LCC are doing would be unlawful, but because we're letting them do it for us, and they think it's OK, then it must be alright for us.

Hmmmm.

At present, the change of direction resulting from the shortened 'Vision' hasn't been costed out, but the Cabinet are being asked to agree the virement (transfer) of money 'in principle' so officers can get on with it, and they can bring individual reports back later.

They also say that the projects identified are being 'considered' but the total value of all the projects is far greater than the funding currently available within the Council’s capital programme and either some money from elsewhere will be needed (or by implication some stuff won't get done).

And buried at the end of Appendix 3 is a little gem of a page.

Under the heading "Next Priorities (Projects which could be delivered if additional capital funding were to become available)" are four little schemes that as yet haven't been estimated for cost at all.

One of these has a familiar ring to it. It is.....

"TITLE: Ansdell (Woodlands Rd) Improvement Project,

DESCRIPTION: Improvements to the public realm along Woodlands Road, particularly in and around the station to enhance this as a key arrival point during the event and improve use of this area afterwards

OBJECTIVE: To enhance the pedestrian and vehicle link between the Green, town centre and Lytham Hall. Through improvements to the public realm an increase in linked trips between the component areas is envisaged. Thus increasing visitor numbers and spend.

We think we can put a cost to this for them.

In common with our agitator "Ben" from our article 'Rolling in it?' we think the cost here might be £100,000 - just the amount the Cabinet can spend without going back to Council for approval, and we suspect the source of the funding could well be the sale of Melton Grove - remember the quote from the top of the page - "if additional capital funding were to become available"

You hear about things first on counterbalance.

Dated:   20 March 2011


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