Councillors support road closure application for Jazz Festival - despite defective application
It was all a bit Alice-through-the-looking-glass. Last week town councillors demanded that the two sides in the dispute between the High Street retailers and the Marlborough Arts Association (MAA) over road closures for the Jazz Festival meet and reach a compromise that would allow the planning committee to support the application.
The meeting was held - no compromises were offered by the Jazz Festival and councillors nonetheless agreed at a regular meeting of the Town Council's planning committee to support the road closure application.
There was a proviso: the councillors want all sides to meet in the so-called 'wash-up' meeting after the Festival and sort out the road closures, positioning of the Community Bandstand in the New Road and all other issues then - rather than leave it until seven weeks before the 2016 event.
But as Councillor Alec Light made clear, there is nothing to say this will happen: "It is not legally binding."
It was pointed out that a similar plan was put forward last year when High Street retailers objected to the road closures and the Marlborough Arts Association failed to attend the meeting.
Councillor Richard Allen who, with the Town Clerk, had been deputed to attend the crisis meeting, reported to the meeting and said that as no compromises had been put forward on behalf of the Jazz Festival, he proposed rejection of the application for the road closures.
He made it clear that the Monday morning crisis meeting of three people from MAA and three from the Marlborough High Street Retailers Association had been 'very constructive.' It was he said 'refreshing' to find "...a general consensus and desire to move forward in a positive way."
There was however a 'but': "The MAA representatives were unable to speak on behalf of the MAA - they were representatives but could not make decisions on behalf of the MAA. They were unable to get support for compromises and the opportunity to do so still existed up to this meeting."
Councillor Allen said 'due process' had not been followed and revealed that the MAA had admitted they were "...several weeks behind in their organisation for this year's Festival...the risk assessment is currently being done." The risk assessment should have been submitted on May 1 with the application for road closures to Wiltshire Council.
Councillor Allen also stated that the consultation (also required for the application) had not been sent to all those affected by the closures.
The three MAA representatives had also "...refuted 100 per cent that no community bandstand meant no Jazz festival." (During the dispute it has been said that the road closure was only needed because the Community Bandstand is sited in New Road opposite Pino's Restaurant, which on the Saturday of the Festival has tables outside.)
However, Councillor Peggy Dow supported the closure application, stating that "Without the road closures the insurers will not give the £2million public liability cover." And Councillor Kirk Wilson supported her: "There needs to be road closures because it is a strolling festival."
Councillor Justin Cook, who last week had urged the two sides to reach a compromise, while supporting the Jazz festival said: "This cannot go on. I put my neck out last week and there's no movement. I am not happy about this whole situation."
Town Clerk Shelley Parker emphasised that the morning meeting had been 'very positive'. There had been no mention of insurance and it was agreed that a 'joint steering group' of traders and the Jazz Festival would be announced at the opening in July: "I am very sad it hasn't come to a compromise."
Councillor Lisa Farrell said it was time that the Town Council and the Jazz Festival started listening to the retailers.
The application was approved by seven votes to two and now goes to Wiltshire Council for final approval.
Later, one of those at the meeting told Marlborough News Online: "Councillors have just voted an amazing precedent - people can put in badly framed and incomplete planning applications and they'll approve them."
The debate at last night's planning meeting went ahead in the absence of four members of the planning committee: Councillors Hannaford-Dobson, Dobson, Loosmore and Ross were all away. Councillor Fogg was present, but did not speak or vote on that part of the agenda.
Marlborough News Online understands that there was a private meeting at Councillor Fogg's home the evening before the meeting attended by councillors supportive of the road closures. CORRECTION: (June 5) We have been informed that there was no meeting attended by councillors on the eve of the Town Council's planning meeting. We are told "the story is completely untrue."