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29th Jun, 2022

Residents seething over pavilion decision

DEMOCRACY has not been served say Stratford residents following a decision to place a Chinese pavilion on their doorstep.

Stratford District Council planning chiefs gave the go-ahead for the six-sided structure in Firs Garden in Grove Road despite controversy over its location.

Residents argued the pavilion – gifted by the Chinese city of Fuzhou as part of a friendship link – would encourage anti-social behaviour, was out of keeping with the surrounding area, and a road safety hazard.

But their concerns were dismissed after the council’s planning committee voted six to two in favour of the pavilion.

David Curtis, who has lived in the area for 18 years, was among those strongly opposed to the plans.

He said: “There’s a real feeling that this isn’t democracy.

“The ward councillor in the area and nearby were opposed to it. Those who voted for it don’t live in the area. Nobody living in the area wants it.

“Quite a few elderly people I spoke to in their 80s and 90s who have difficulty reading or with mobility, didn’t know anything about it. It seemed there was no attempt to contact them.

“The garden was originally a gift to the public, and it might be managed by the council but it shouldn’t mean they can do what they like to it.

“I’m not not opposed to the pavilion and I do think it will enhance the town and drive tourism, but in Firs it will look completely out of place. It will be too incongruous. It’s going to be as big as a double-decker bus and it’s not going to enhance the park which is already very beautiful.

“There should have been a proper consultation process in place.

“Just because the decision got through doesn’t make it right.”

But planning committee chair Coun Justin Kerridge said the committee followed the proper consultation process and had taken the concerns into consideration.

He explained: “We went through proper consultation process which has been back and forth. It was deferred and we listened to all the concerns from the residents. But the number of people against the idea is not a planning reason.

“The committee is neutral. We didn’t have the option of another location to consider so we just considered what we had before us.

“We believe the right decision was made and whether it will look nice is something which has caused concern at this stage.

“People don’t like change. Wherever it was placed people would complain.

“I personally will enjoy looking at it rather than just at traffic when I sit to eat my lunch. It will be of benefit to Stratford and will enhance the surroundings. I hope concerns will disappear as time goes by and people will be a bit more positive once it’s up.”

Fears the structure might attract rough sleepers and anti-social behaviour were concerns discussed at the meeting.

The park is already an alcohol restriction zone after residents fought for the ban some years ago.

But Coun Kerridge said it was an open pavilion and he could not see the difference between that and a bench.

Concerns were also raised over road safety. Residents feared tourists could stand in the road to take photos, and passing drivers could also be distracted by the structure.

Responding to the safety concerns, Coun Kerridge said an independent surveyor was satisfied accidents would not increase with the placing of the pavilion in the garden.

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