Monday, January 11, 2010

Tesco expansion, grit and a cold front in Lisburn council chamber

Lisburn City Council

Last Monday’s meeting of Lisburn City Council’s planning committee – on which the entire council sit – was dominated by grit. (If the meeting had been scheduled a week later, Panorama might have proved more attractive and I bet attendance would have been thinner.)

It was the first meeting of the councillors since the death of Councillor Peter O’Hagan just before Christmas and a strong tribute was given along with a minute’s silence and a fifteen minute adjournment.

The changing of the daft parking rules on our street went through on the nod (or on the turning of a page). Living on a street that backs onto a local school, there are single yellow lines on both sides of the street to prevent sixth formers using the street as an all-day car park, and to prevent parents loitering at the morning set down and afternoon pick up times.

Parking restriction sign

Strangely the restrictions are 8am – 6.30pm seven days a week for much of the street, with a very short stretch only 8am – 6.30pm Monday to Friday. Not sure what kind of traffic disruption is expected on Saturday afternoons or Sundays!

Of course, when the traffic attendants’ rotas bring them to patrol the street during school hours, they manage to move a few parents on, but I’ve never seen someone be ticketed. Of course, a single attendant can’t make a big impact. But parents complained of harassment when the traffic attendants turned up in pairs, each working from opposite ends of the street, so they’re back down to single working.)

Parking restriction sign

During weekends and school holidays, the street is still put on the rota. Residents and visitors who forget and park outside end up with tickets. Exactly what happened between Christmas and the New Year (Tuesday 29 December) when visitors didn’t get into our driveway and along with one other car on the street received a parking ticket. I’d guess that more tickets are raised during the holidays than during the school term.

It’ll be interesting to see whether removing the single yellow line from one side of the street will make a difference to residents, or whether it will just cause different parking headaches.

And one of the councillors offered to write to support the appeal of the ticket. It’ll be interesting to see if his magic touch works.

Amongst the planning applications, there was discussion about the major extension to the Bentrim Road Tesco store.

Framework plan - Lisburn Masterplan

Although the Planning Service have recommended the approval of the application, councillors pointed out that the plans hadn’t been assessed against the Lisburn City Centre Masterplan (which I posted about in October) and referred it back to the Planning Management Board. The local paper – the Ulster Starreports the appreciation of the Bentrim Street Residents’ Group who oppose the development. Sounded like the current petrol station may not survive the extension, and the frequent queue of cars snaking around the roundabout trying to get into the Tesco car park may be better managed in any future development.

But most time was devoted to grit.

Why was the pedestrianised Bow Street not being salted by the Roads Service? Why did Lisburn City Centre Management not make safe the busy shopping street? And what was stopping the Council from intervening and doing it themselves?

Council officials cautioned that taking on the salting of footpaths was outside the remit of the council, and would leave them open to issues of liability, insurance as well as cost and resource.

Councillor Edwin Poots took a strong line and received support for his suggestion that members of the public wouldn’t want to hear politicians passing the buck and wanted the City Centre Management and Roads Service to be contacted and asked to “sort it”.

The last issue raised under Any Other Business was perhaps inward-looking. Councillor Dillon felt that the low temperature in the council chamber was a priority. (Seemed warm enough to me, but someone said the heating hadn’t been on when they arrived for an earlier meeting.)

“Why should we as elected members sit in an ice box? I’ve been sitting at home cold for ten days … We have a [civic] centre manager. Why can common sense not kick in and have this chamber heated? I want it minuted.”

And by March, we may well see it recorded in the official minutes.

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