THE CONTROVERSIAL decision to place a seven metre high Chinese pavilion in a Stratford park could be referred to the local government ombudsman.
Stratford District Council planning chiefs gave the go-ahead for the six-sided structure in Firs Garden in Grove Road despite strong opposition from residents.
Former town mayor Roy Lodge was among those who attended a recent meeting to raise concerns over its location – a decision he claimed was made ‘behind closed doors’.
He said: “It still remains a mystery when and by whom this decision was made to site the pavilion in the Firs Garden and why this project was not subject to public consultation?
“Understandably there was anger, frustration and bemusement by members of the public at the district council meeting on Monday when little or no notice was taken of their objections.
“Whatever happened to consultation and the localisation of decision making? Why is the council not adhering to its own guidelines on consultation and listening to local residents? Why are decision being made behind closed doors and thus avoiding a more transparent and flexible kind of local government? Was the Firs Garden a privately negotiated arrangement with the Chinese before it got onto the public agenda?”
And Mr Lodge said the issue could be raised with the local government Ombudsman which independently investigates complaints from the public regarding their local authority.
Stratford District Council leader Tony Jefferson argued the planning process had been ‘duly’ followed and no representation had been made by the town council on behalf of residents.
He added: “The district council planning committee that considered the application was drawn from councillors from across the district, which helped to ensure a dispassionate and considered view was taken of the planning application. As with any planning application not everyone will get a preferred outcome.
“Construction of the pavilion has started and I think it will be interesting to hear the comments people make when it has been completed. It was also a gift to the whole town, so the response from residents from across the town will be important. There have already been some positive comments regarding the pavilion, including views that it will enhance the Firs Garden.
“As a tourist town with an international reputation it is important that we react positively to such generous gifts and, in this instance, it helps reinforce the cultural partnership we have established with Fuzhou. In my view there is so much that both parties can gain from this collaboration. We hope that we will see increased business and trade links with the China bringing in investment and boosting the economies of both. We should remember that much of our prosperity is based on tourism.”
Stratford was gifted the peony pavilion by the Chinese city of Fuzhou where a replica Shakespeare’s Birthplace and other local landmarks are being constructed.
Residents argued the structure would encourage anti-social behaviour, was out of keeping with the surrounding area, and a road safety hazard.
But their concerns were dismissed after the council’s planning committee voted six to two in favour of the pavilion.