Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Scating (sic!) on thin ice...

'Old and new- anything will do'- a design guide for postwar Southampton?

I went to an interesting public meeting organised by one of my political oppenents, Liberal Democrat Councillor Liz Mizon at the Highfield House Hotel in Portswood last night. The key guest was a Council officer called Andy Scate who heads up the 'Planning & Sustainability' department of the City Council.
Like many cities where land is at a premium, there have been many applications approved in Southampton over the last twenty years that have changed the character of the area (flats!, flats!, flats!!!) beyond all recognition and in my view should have been opposed and then rejected on sound planning grounds. Highfield and Bassett have been particular victims of this (as have Freemantle & Shirley where I represent) and doubtless Cllr Mizon was attempting to some extent to tap into this dissatisfaction. I must say that she chaired the meeting very effectively and it was well attended (with plenty of members of the Highfield Resident's Association were there) but the real star of the night was the Council Officer Andy Scate who heads up the department.
After giving a short presentation, he fielded questions for the duration of the two hour meeting with both good humour and humility. Unlike many Officers he was also not too defensive of his Department and acknowledged there were issues in a number of areas.
I got a round of applause (the only one of any speaker!) when I made the point that Council Officer's often didn't seem to give design considerations sufficient weight in their reports to the Planning Panel and also that as an authority we were not active enough in the creation of conservation areas or attempting to get structures listed. They were points he conceded so it will be interesting to see if we can make any progress in this area...


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