Reading Tories have developed a rather peculiar method of local campaigning... ambulance chasing. First Mapledurham Pavilion and now Kings Meadow Baths.
I should say at this point that I have the utmost respect for Tom Stanway and the reasons for his decision to back Askett-Hawke's proposal because I know he arrived at them after much thought and deliberation.
However, Rob Wilson's attempt to ride in like a knight on a white charger to the rescue is a tragic symptom of the bandwagon hitching he is so fond of. He perhaps should have shared his concerns about how the community can take part in and gain use of King's Meadow Baths with his fellow Conservatives before the committee met.
The maths were quite simple. If the Conservatives had all voted for the King's Meadow Campaign, Rob Wilson wouldn't be having to furiously back-pedal to save face now. His call for a call-in by the Corporate, Community and External Affairs committee of a decision that two of his own councillors dodged is pretty desperate.
Mr. Wilson should maybe also have had a word with one Tory member of the committee who did not appear to have read the briefing papers, asking a question the answer to which was quite clearly in the report before us. It's just not good enough to turn up and skim read the papers during a meeting and not have a good enough grasp of the matters under discussion to vote one way or the other. It is perhaps why we are sent them in advance? The people of Reading deserve better from their councillors.
It's a matter of public record that both myself and Peter Beard voted for the Kings Meadow Campaign proposal. As I said at the time, it was a tough call. I wasn't happy with some parts of the KMC bid, but then I wasn't happy with parts of the Askett-Hawke bid either.
Since it was a public meeting, I don't think I'm out of order for reiterating why I voted the way I did. The Askett-Hawke plans, in my opinion, overdevelop the waterfront and reduces the amenity of Kings Meadow - that hotel is going to cast a long shadow over the park in the summer evenings. In the current market, I also wasn't happy that all the integral elements would be viable and a partially completed project would do no one any favours. It was my opinion that there were pluses and minuses to both plans and in the abscence of a clear winner, the community option was always going to get my vote.
What can be said is that the planning committee is going to have to be pretty damn careful either way. Some members have probably overstepped the mark in what they have said about the two bids and will find it difficult to avoid accusations that they haven't predetermined a decision before the facts are presented before them.
I don't think this is the last we have heard of this by a long chalk!