I went to FDC Planning Committee today to speak in support of The Retreat, a local business that wants to protect itself from vandalism with railing on its windows and wants to keep the uPVC Windows that were installed a few years ago (by a company who had assured them the proper permissions have been obtained.)
I wanted to support The Retreat because they are a great local business. Real community supports, local employers, doing their best to bring a great service to our town.
I also wanted to support them because we should support entrepreneurs and businesses in our area. As a Conservative, I believe in supporting local business. I think we should be removing obstacles, not putting them in the way.
I also also wanted to support them because the rules are just plain stupid. They serve nobody. They are a paradise for bureaucrats, penpushers and over-promoted box tickers. They are supposed to protect our “heritage” but they don’t even do that. They are so woefully out-of-date and poorly-structured, that they are little more than a joke.
And so we have it that this business, sandwiched between two nightclubs, a vandalised public toilet and a car wash, is considered to be in a zone of such beauty that it requires protection. The form this “protection” takes is to load it with such archaic conditions and rules and associated costs that it is crippled. Oh well done, FDC. Slow clap for you.
I pointed out to the committee that the vast majority of the public support The Retreat. It’s not that we don’t love our heritage – we do! It’s that we recognise the common sense observation that some very nice uPVC windows are better than a burnt-out old ruin or a crumbling structure that nobody can afford to repair.
I pointed out that Wisbech Town Council almost-unanimously supported a motion to support The Retreat on this issue. They didn’t give a stuff. They don’t care what the local Councillors think about it, or what the local people think about it.
How does this look to the people of Wisbech? Everybody I’ve spoken to wants the Retreat to be able to get on with their business. They support the right of local businesses to protect themselves from vandalism. They think this crazy uPVC / Conservation Zone rule can be considered on a case-by-case basis so that it can be applied on areas of real interest, but not used to scupper and harm small traders who are just trying to improve the town and make ends meet.
I’ve long thought that being a Councillor for too long leads to people “going native.” They become unable to think outside the box, they look only to the guidance of officers, who in turn can only make decisions to the precise letter of the law. Common sense is the sacrifice to the altar of the petty bureaucrat.
All in all I am left very disappointed. I am disappointed with a Planning Committee that has been shaky for a number of years in my opinion, but seems to have now entirely lose its heart and soul. I am disappointed at a committee of people claiming to know what is best for Wisbech, none of whom are from Wisbech. Most of all I am disappointed that the views of the people, the business owners, the Town Council, and the Mayor of Wisbech were essentially sneered at.
I hope The Retreat will get through this and go on to prosper. I am very sorry for the decision which was taken, which I believe was utterly and profoundly the wrong decision.