Last night’s packed Town Meeting called to discuss the threat to Crowborough and the Community Centre if the Pine Grove offices were sold for residential development, concluded with a vote of no confidence in Wealden District Council.
It is estimated over 400 people turned-out in the wind and rain to hear about what was being proposed for the Pine Grove site and understand what threat this might pose to the library, town centre parking and the economic viability of the Community Centre. Residents queued at the entrance of the Community Centre, as town council staff checked names against the electoral register, before issuing a slip of red paper for the voting. The meeting was late starting, as extra chairs were set-out and last people to arrive directed to overflow rooms to follow proceedings from the main hall on a relay.
The meeting, chaired by Crowborough’s Mayor Cllr Ron Reed, was called by ten electors using powers in the Local Goverment Act 1972. Clive Wilson, one of the Directors of the Crowborough Community Association, explained the layout of the Pine Grove site and the nearby Hookstead Centre in Goldsmiths Avenue. Using a series of projected maps, he described who owned the land, buildings and the town centre car parks. He also explained the history of Wealden District Council vacating the building and the change of use of the Hookstead Centre from respite and day care to now being the location of the Crowborough Registry Office.
During the meeting four resolutions were carried without opposition, before at the conclusion of the meeting a final vote of ‘no confidence’ was taken.
The proposers were Roger Bishop from the Crowborough Community Association, Ade Morris from the Crowborough Players, Hugh Fenton, a business consultant and Peter Ellefsen, chairman of the Western Road Residents’ Association.
Nobody from Wealden District Council was present at the meeting to formerly defend their position. Although today the following statement was issued by Leader of the Council, Councillor Bob Standley:
We strongly refute the claim at Monday night’s Crowborough Town meeting that Wealden District Council has misused the planning system to further its own financial interests.
Since 2011, Wealden District Council has been working to provide a community solution for the office site. When it was clear that there was no support among public sector organisations for a Civic Community Hub, we encouraged the Crowborough Community Association’s bid to use the site for a rural business hub. The CCA has been unable to raise the funds for the project within the allowed time period. The Pine Grove site is designated for mixed use in Wealden Local Plan Core Strategy and the options are in keeping with local and national planning policy. The proposal to provide extra care facilities to the town’s more vulnerable residents will also provide long term employment and is in the community’s interest.
Our own financial interest continues to be those of all the council tax payers of the District.
Tonight, Crowborough Town Council will discuss the way forward after yesterday’s meeting, as well as considering a recommendation they should buy the freehold of the Pine Grove. Let’s hope hundreds of people don’t turn-out tonight, as the Town Hall can only cope with a few dozen.