'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Broughton Moor Dumped - now this really is a rant

For 4 years the utropia team have attempted to become the development partner with the local authority (Allerdale/?) for the Broughton Moor ex naval weapons 'dump' in West Cumbria. This week the plans were turned down for the second time by West Lakes Renaissance a government funded agency dedicated, like the other 26 agencies in West Cumbria to the generation of funding for their own existence. The utropia team have produced an inclusive integrated model for the development of the total site which included a sensitive cost effective remediation plan, education, sport, hotels, entertainment and the arts, housing, transport, infrastructure, business, trade, commerce, agriculture, energy and waste management with massive buy-in from the local population. It's actually an excellent model for West Cumbria as a whole. It is not an environmental theme park (as wrongly described by the WC Times) although everything done at the site would comply with the utropian principles, which are very much based on environment and humanity. Most importantly it is not a single trick plan - for example sports academy or hotel or god forbid a paintball park. The remediation of the site is seen as part of utropia and would be the starting point for the whole project. Strangely - the low impact approach to the remediation advocated by utropia has been adopted by West Lakes Renaissance, but without acknowledgment.
The 'shadow board' put in place by Allerdale to manage their 'Derwent Forest Park' scheme (incidentally just another cost for West Lakes renaissance to raise funds for) have called at different times for expressions of interest. The first time was pre-shadow-body the second time was in a bit of a hurry with an hour given for presentations of a complex nature. The first time was to a fairly complex scope but to be based on an expression of interest only. The second time was just an invite. Neither presentation was ideal or timely and on both occasions failed to answer the question that was not asked. This seems to be the catch 22 of most agencies. They don't ask you a question which in consequence is not answered and so the submission fails. Agency can thus not make a decision having lashed out £50k or so to consultants who tell them that to do nothing carries the least risk. I wonder what the risk is that consultants might not be employed by Allerdale.
Despite the West Lakes Renaissance letter of refusal - the future vision for Broughton Moor has already been shaped and set by utropia. To not accept the utropia model and partnership however can only mean that whatever happens will be watered down; have a high environmental impact; give the worst possible result and not maximise the benefit to the local economy in the construction and operation (take a look at Workington Town Centre Development - how many locals there!).
Already the remediation is being done by an out of county contractor. I have met the guys and they seem well intentioned, but why oh why could Allerdale not find a local company? How come I know of Cumbrian companies good enough to restore parts of London, Glasgow, Paris, Dublin but somehow not good enough for Workington?
I am more convinced that the best thing for the economy is the extinction of the DTI and all of it's agencies. Competition, European Rules, Innovation .... all conspire to give the worst possible solution for most projects... a micro costing approach... littered with project and company failures and out-of-county solicitors, accountants and consultants raking off 15 to 20% of the cost of a potential project often before it starts.
I do despair. At Broughton Moor with utropia there was an opportunity to make a difference to Cumbria. The politicians and their servants (the agencies and sub agencies) could have partnered with a local development team to add real value to Cumbria. Utropia is a long term vision. It could be done without public money. The remediation could generate value. People would want it to succeed. My Cumbrian vision now is that the remediation will be done badly; we will have a succession of amateur uses for the site; all standalone - some displacing and weakening existing business and trade - and whatabout a good outdoor clothing shop? - that's a good idea as there's 20 or so in Keswick all doing very well I believe. The utropia team (and as you have probably guessed I am one of them) understand what it is to live and work and play in Cumbria our intent is plain we have no self agenda. The local authorities, their agencies, their boards and servants with a few exceptions do not have the nerve to make any decision - never mind a good one. The fear of the auditor puts pay to that. I'm also a director of one of the agencies so I now declare an interest. Not for much longer though, as on reflection I now see that I have been unable to make any difference to the operation or success of the agency by attending 4 meetings a year....It made sod all difference. The head of one of the agencies (not one that I am involved with) does not live, actually work, or play in Cumbria... so how the hell can they make any judgment on what is good for us.
A couple more points before I shut up:
1) Our newly elected Copeland MP Jamie Reed (born and bred - young bright socialist I hope) said that if he hadn't have been in Whitehaven at the time of the London bombs he would have been in London - narrow escape. Hey Jamie I think I know what you mean but I think that was the case for most of us. Say nowt please!
2) The 3 year old grand daughter of my best mate told me tonight that she saw Live Aid 8 and that she cried when she saw the pictures of the starving children in hot Africa, but it was OK because Bob Gandolf was looking after them. I rest a previous blog case.


Blogger Viking Longship said...

Well written rant, I must say, almost up to the standards of your more prolific fellow blogger WIR.

If I was still living in Cumbria, I am sure that I would have some comments to post about the inabilities of labour, numb nuts polititions and goverment organisations never seeing beyond their own navels and the general state of political England.

However, as I am no longer in the UK, I will not comment........

18/7/05 9:51 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just remember, if you can succeed in management, you work in the private sector. If you can't, you go into the civil service. If you can't get into the civil sevice, you go into local government (and if you can't make it there you go into the health service).

I do have some sympathy for relatively lowly functionaries who know that if they make a decision and it goes pear-shaped they will be shamelessly pilloried in the media. But equally in the NHS I have seen far too many opportunities lost because nobody would take responsibility for anything.

My commiserations.

18/7/05 12:50 pm  
Blogger Nick said...

Dr John, I can assure you, on the basis of my experience in a very large household name British company, management rarely achieves the levels of basic competence your commnent implies . . . .

18/7/05 5:38 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr John: I have been resisting a health service rant. Back in Feb March April I had the pleasure of treatment for a broken leg at the new Carlisle Foundation thing. Now I have very fixed views on car parking fees and outsourcing of non-clinical services. I may have to blog on that soon.

19/7/05 2:16 pm  

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