9th January 2009
Dear Mr. Holdcroft,
Thank you for your letter of the 15th January. Your prompt reply was a welcome change to my normal experience of writing to councillors.
There are still one or two points in your letter which I should like clarified. Firstly, you have not given a clear answer to my original request to Councillor Waite, and I do now now suppose she will, wregarding the return of the Shrubbery site to the Leisure Department from the Transport Department. If this were done formally in full council, (as was the decision of the 14th Nov. 2002) rather than relying on public assurances on the matter, then the doubts of, "the group of unlawful squatters" occupying the site regarding the council's intentions would be removed and as they have repeatedly stated, they would leave the site having restored it to the condition in which they found it. As long as the shrubbery remains in the hands of the Transport Department, there is absolutely no guarantee that the council will not at some future date make inroads of some kind into the site. From this you will gather that there is considerable lack of trust regarding councillors' public statements which are not substantiated by actions.
Regarding that part of my letter to you concerning the proposed siting of the museum for the Saxon remains, you write in your reply, 'that some investigation was undertaken with regard to locating the relics in Priory Park but for various reasons this is not feasible'. Would you at least indicate what these various reasons were.
As a former Science teacher, I could imagine nothing better than having shown a party of pupils around the museum to come outside and be able to point out where the exhibits were found (I can hear their "Wow!"). Or better still, to cross over to a replica tomb by way of a tunnel under the road. Children's imagination is fired by actuality. A museum to so many of them is just another museum; they need to be able to relate its contents to a locality.
Lastly, is the council sure of getting the funding for their proposed museum? It would be good to see these finds here before too long. THe existing museum in Pirory Park itself could at very little cost be adapted as a suitable home for these finds.
Southend-on-Sea Borough Council
P.O. Box 6 Civic Centre Victoria Avenue Southend-on-Sea Essex SS2 6ER
Councillor Nigel Holdcroft
Leader of the Council
Telephone: (01702) 215142 Fax: (01702) 215199 Email: email@example.com
15th January 2009
Mr M Downer
Southend on Sea
Dear Mr Downer
I refer to your letter of 21st January.
With respect I think that your comments with regards to “ownership” of the site are some what of a red herring. All land and buildings owned by the Authority are within the control of the Cabinet and COuncil and if the Council had intended to proceed with the construction of a road across the site the fact that it was being nominally dealt with within the Culture Department would not in any way have prevented the construction if that had been the decision taken by Council.
In addition to the public statements on the issue by myself and other members of my administration the reality remains that we do not have the funding to construct the road even if we were minded to do so and there has been no suggestion on the part of the Government that such funding would be released. Inevitably this was a factor in the change of Council policy which has been through Full Council.
There are no reasonable grounds to suggest that the Councils intentions are not now clear and if the unlawful occupiers of the site would vacate as they previously suggested they would do, the appropriate landscaping would be put in hand immediately.
In my view the unlawful occupiers are fully aware of the Councils true intentions byt have chosen to continue to occupy the site for reasons of their own, in a manner which can not enhance or protect the site.
Priory Park was rejected as a site due to the absence of any suitable building or potential location and significant concerns about the security of relics which are of course of considerable value.
Whilst I would agree that historically museums have not always been designed in a manner ot fire the imagination of children, my own view is that times are changing and that many modern museums provide and enjoyable and stimulating environment for young and old alike. Obviously I am extremely anxious that the museum eventually construct to house the Saxon King Relics will be of the highest quality.
Finally you ask whether the Council is sure of getting funding. The answer is of course no, until actually granted nothing can be certain although the fact remains that we have already received significant grant funding with regards to feasibility study which would of course be wasted if we were unable to proceed with the scheme. My current advice is that the relics would not be released back to us if the proposal was to locate them in a home which was inadequate either in size or more particularly with regards to security.
I trust that this adequately deals with this matter and no doubt we can communicate further as and when further progress has been made.
Councillor Nigel Holdcroft
Leader of Southend Borough Council