The Battle of Bedford Square

Second Helping - The Councils Try Again in 1998

Questionnaire Was it biassed? More Pressure Town Council's Reaction The Result
Interpretation Press Release Decisions Synopsis July Update
21 Oct 98
Referendum Update
23 Nov 98
Referendum Result
2 Dec 98
Town & Parish Councils reactions All in Vain?

After the failure of the 1997 consultation to deliver support for the councils' plans for Bedford Square, Tavistock, they decided to try again.
A Working Group was set up, with representatives from local organisations, the Chamber of Commerce, the Town Council, the Borough Council, the Civic Society, the Business Association, local taxi drivers, the Disabled Access Group. The task of this group was to devise new plans "from the grass roots" for a re-consultation in the summer of 1998. An officer of West Devon Borough Council was tasked to support and guide the Group. He will be referred to hereinafter as "the Lead Officer".

In April 1998, the Working Group showed its plans to the parent groups that had appointed its members. Three outline plans had emerged. All had narrowed the carriageway to 2 lanes. Scheme A allowed 5 car parking spaces (there is currently space for 8 to 14), a pick-up and drop-off point for about 3 cars, shared with loading and a stop for the Community 'Bus on the East side and space for 3 taxis on the West side. Scheme B allowed parking for 6 cars, a little more manoeuvering space than Scheme A, the same space for taxis as Scheme A, but a very much reduced space for the Community 'Bus, implying no pick-up/drop-off for no very apparent reason. Scheme C had no car parking space at all, though it restored the pick-up/drop-off zone to the same size as Scheme A. Both Schemes A and B made access to car parking extremely discouraging.Scheme C was, in fact, very similar to the failed 1997 plan, except for the pick-up/drop-off zone and the 3-cab taxi rank.

The Town Council agreed not to express a preference, but to let the public decide. It asked for assurances, however, that the questionnaire would give equal weighting to each option and the same weight to the fourth option: no change. We had seen biassed questionnaries before, and were determined that this one would be fair. This assurance was given by the Lead Officer when he presented the plans to the Town Council.

I understand that a first draft of the questionnaire was written by the Lead Officer. This was rejected by the Working Group, and given to a sub-group of four members. The final draft was not submitted for validation against bias to any external Opinion Research organisation or professional with appropriate skills, and the Working Group was not advised that this might be a prudent precaution. Here is the text of the questionnaire.


Hopefully you have now had the chance to read the accompanying leaflet. Could you please assist us by answering the following questions. You may find it helpful to read this form in full prior to completing it.

Q1. Would you wish to see arrangements which made crossing the Square on foot easier and therefore potentially safer?
Yes [ ] No [ ]
Q2. Would you wish to see a reduction of the current number and/or mix of vehicles (ie cars, coaches, buses, taxis) using the area in front of the Town Hall?
Yes [ ] No [ ]
Q3. In front of the Town Hall should pedestrians be given any more space at all by widening the pavement?
Yes [ ] No [ ]
Q4. Should the lighting in Bedford Square be revised and enhanced?
Yes [ ] No [ ]
Q5. Should the current exit/access from the Guildhall Car Park be repositioned to bring it onto the roundabout and improve road safety?
Yes [ ] No [ ]
Q6. Should there be a pelican crossing (with lights) at the top of Plymouth Road instead of the present zebra crossing?
Yes [ ] No [ ]
Q7. If you have answered No to all of the first six questions you are likely to be opposed to any proposal for change in the Square and its surrounding area. Please confirm that this is the case. [You should only tick this box if you have already ticked No to all of the Q1 to 6 above]
I confirm that I wish to see no alteration whatsoever in this area [ ] [only tick if that is your view, otherwise please leave blank]

If you answered No to Questions 1 to 6 above and you have ticked Question 7 your view is clearly registered and you need answer no further questions. Thank you for your help.

If you have not ticked the box by Question 7 please now complete the remainder of this form.


Use of the Square

It is impossible to make crossing the Square shorter and safer and legally maintain bus and coach dropping off points (excepting smaller community buses) in front of the Town Hall. The coach and bus dropping off points for larger vehicles have therefore been suggested for relocation.

The Group also concluded that in the interests of safety taxis should not use the area fronting the Town Hall. We also felt again in the interests of safety that there should only be one access point for any vehicles coming to the area in front of the Town Hall and this should be via the Guildhall Car Park.

Q8 Viewing the plans are you agreeable to the suggested arrangements for:
(a) Pedestrians having the shorter and defined crossing points to go across the traffic lanes in the Square Yes [ ] No [ ]
(b) Taxis Yes [ ] No [ ]
(c) Vehicular access to the area in front of the Town Hall via the Guildhall Car Park (in Options A and B only) Yes [ ] No [ ]
(d) Coaches Yes [ ] No [ ]
(e) Buses Yes [ ] No [ ]

Proposals in front of the Town Hall

We unanimously agreed that the area in front of the Town Hall needed to be enhanced and made safer. We felt different proposals should be brought forward to give the public a choice. Wile the present Square does not comply with modern day safety standards, any new arrangement must. At present there is completely open vehicular access across the whole of the front of the Town Hall from both traffic lanes. Pedestrians and vehicles use the same space right across the front of the Town Hall. This random arrangement creates potential conflict across a wide area. Any revision of this area has to produce a scheme restricting this potential danger and therefore limits the options available. Nevertheless three very different schemes labelled 'A', 'B' and 'C' in the attached leaflet are available. Which option if any do you prefer? If you find no favour with any scheme identified please move on to question 10.

Q9. I favour:-
Scheme A [ ] Scheme B [ ] Scheme C [ ]
Q10. If you have not supported any of the options in Q9 please detail overleaf what you feel should be done. this may be a new option or possibly a limited proposal dealing with only one or two points identified in Q1 to 6.
Q11. Although you may have indicated a preference in Q9 it may be that you can see a variant to your favoured option (A, B or C) which you might like to canvass. If that is the case, please comment overleaf.
Q12. Name: Address:

[This will be kept confidential]
Thank you very much for your assistance.

Please fold this leaflet and post

Was the Questionnaire biassed?

My view of that questionnaire and the leaflet that accompanied it is that the first 6 questions tended strongly towards the answer Yes and that Q7 was not a question at all: it was an instruction that all but the most strong-minded cynics would interpret as meaning that No was not an option. I should be interested to hear from anyone qualified or experienced in Opinion Research for a professional view as to the neutrality of this questionnaire. Email me if you have a view.


More Shenannigans

A public exhibition of the plans was mounted in an empty shop during Friday 24 April and Saturday 25 April 1998. During this PR exercise to persuade a reluctant and sometimes resentful public (remember that 60% had rejected radical changes to the Square only a year before) that the councils' plans were the best thing since sliced cheese. At this exhibition, a leaflet was distributed which caused the Town Council come concern at its meeting the following Tuesday. Here is the text of the leaflet. See what you think.

Twelve Points You Might Like to Consider arising from the Bedford Square Consultation

The Working Group which has been looking at the question of revised proposals for Bedford Square think it might be helpful if the answers were given to some of the most likely questions being raised in the context of the current consultation. If you have additional questions or want further clarification please do ask.



1.      What is the purpose of this exercise?

        We want to find out two things.

        Firstly, do the public want to see any changes in Bedford Square?

        And secondly, if the majority do want changes what form do those people want to see this change 
        taking. We wish to establish the majority answer to both these questions.


2.      If nothing was done would the position in Bedford Square worsen?

        The position has been worsening year by year and in our view will continue to do so for the 
        foreseeable future. Delivery vehicles and coaches are becoming larger. Every year overall 
        car ownership increases. Recent legislation has also given additional freedom on the number of 
        taxis able to be licensed. It is our view that a scheme is essential.


3.      Why not just widen the pavement and leave the rest of the area for random parking as now?

        This has not been an option otherwise it would be canvassed. It would contravene current highway 
        standards to undertake works and create a revised area of random traffic movements and this could 
        not be authorised by the highway authority who must have the final say.


4.      What will the cost be?

        A scheme is likely to cost between £300,000 and £420,000 if natural granite is used as is intended.

5.      Where would the money come from?

        It is envisaged 50% of the cost will come from a European Grant (this has already been awarded), 
        25% from the County Council Capital Budget and 25% from the Borough Council Capital Budget.

6.      What happens if the scheme does not go ahead. Can this go to other things like local schools 
        or social services?

        No, in the event of the scheme not proceeding the 50% European grant money would go for other 
        infrastructure schemes in Europe, the 25% County contribution for other highway schemes 
        elsewhere in the County and the 25% Borough contribution for other capital schemes in the 

        There cannot be virement as contribution have to be ring-fneced. The money will either be spent 
        here or elsewhere on similar infrastructure schemes.

7.      Does this scheme materially affect the rates?

        There would be no finding directly from the rates. It would be financed by capital borrowing set 
        aside for capital schemes of this nature. The rate call is for revenue funding.


8.      What about the specific details. Surely there is the opportunity to have features incorporated 
        instead of just the simple paved areas as shown?

        Yes, that would be possible if that is what the majority public view wants. However, firstly we 
        need to establish what (if any) scheme the public favour. When and if a favoured scheme is 
        identified it is hoped the Working Group can come back with options (again for the public to 
        comment upon) concerning how best to use any public space.


9.      What scheme achieves the greatest amount of car parking in front of the Town                                                    Hall?

        It is a close call in net terms between Schemes A and B. Scheme A achieves 5 spaces in the area
        and Scheme B 8, but Scheme B causes the loss of 2 of the spaces in the Guildhall car park, bringing 
        down its net provision to 6 spaces.


10.     What scheme achieves the greatest amount public spacel?

        Scheme C wins here, Scheme A comes second and Scheme B loses out in this regard.


11.     What representation made at the 1997 consultation has received your greatest 

        Certainly at the exhibition the strongest call seemed to be for the continuation of a significant 
        dropping off and picking up point in the Town Center. We have given very detailed thought to this 
        request and in Schemes A and C specific provision has been made.


12.     What is the majority view of the Working Group?

        The unanimous view is that something has to be done. We would have differing views  about our 
        own preferred solution as would the bodies we represent. However, if there is to be change we all 
        believe the public should choose the scheme to be employed as at the end of the day it is vital to 
        achieve local ownership.

The Town Council was not impressed. My view of that document, which was written by the Lead Officer and presented to the Working Group as a fait accompli at its last (poorly-attended) meeting before the exhibition, is unprintable. Town Council expressed its view in the following formal motion:

"Council is disappointed by the tendentious and misleading statements made in support of the changes proposed for Bedford Square and considers that these compromise the consultation process."

It is significant that this was the view of the Town Council before the consultation outcome was known. Whatever the outcome, this cannot be seen as "sour grapes". Furthermore, the Town Council did not express a preference for any of the schemes offered.

What Happened?

The questionnaire was returned by a record 3358 people. The results were:

No change: 902 26.86%
Limited change: 290 8.64%
Scheme A: 524 15.60%
Scheme B: 335 9.97%
Scheme C: 1265 37.67%
Variations on a scheme: 33 0.98%
Spoilt papers: 9 0.27%
TOTAL 3358

The result was interpreted like this. The total in favour of change (ie A+B+C+variations) was 2157. Therefore more people favoured change than favoured no change. Of those who favoured change, most favoured Scheme C: 1265 is 58.65% of 2157. So, Scheme C is the winner, being chosen by 58.6% of those who favoured change.


The full result was never published. This is the only place you will see it. The Press Release did not give the full breakdown. Here is its text:

People vote Yes to new proposals for Bedford Square
A massive response to the Bedford Square consultation exercise which took place in late April has resulted in a large YES vote to a proposal to carry out enhancement work in the Square in Tavistock. 64% of the 3,358 views registered gave support for one of the three schemes suggested by a Working Group composed of local councils and organisations. 36% however favoured either no change or quite limited proposals. In the leaflet the Working Group offered three detailed schemes for the public to choose between. Nearly 60% of people supporting a comprehensive change indicated their support for Scheme C which maximised the paved area and the ddrop off bay but excluded parking. There have now been four public consultations involving the historic town square. There has been public support for a scheme on three occasions and rejection of a scheme once in 1977, making the 1998 consultation necessary. [ Here followed the usual sprinkling of quotes from local eminences, eulogising the alleged outcome. ] The issue will go before Committees dealing with Planning and Highways matters in June.
- ends - 18 May 1998

Top That Press Release concealed more than it exposed to public view. Predictably, the full result was never published, other than in the councils' committee papers, until I included it in a letter to the local paper on 25 July 1998. The only interpretation given by the officers' reports to committee was the least likely one, given above.

The issue fell to be decided by the West Devon Partnership Committee - a joint committee of Devon County Council and West Devon Borough Council - on 15 June 1998. I sit on the committee, and presented to it a strong case, arguing that the consultation had been fixed so as to produce a pre-determined outcome. I wrote a short paper, showing that the consultation results were capable of several interpretations, only one of which had been presented in the officers' report.
I argued that the consultation was flawed; that the questionnaire had been biassed because it had been prepared by amateurs without the skills necessary to eliminate bias; that its result was ambiguous because of those flaws; that the interpretation of the returns given in the officers' report was but one of several possible; that no evidence had been adduced to support it; that it was the least plausible of three interpretations that I offered of the same figures; that anecdotal evidence existed to support a different interpretation and that I had constituents' letters to show this.
I presented seven of the letters, annexed to my paper, one of which, to which I drew explicit attention, was the opinion of a Market Research professional of 40 years' standing, alleging bias in the questionnaire. I circulated the paper to all members of the committee. You might think that reasonable people, presented with such evidence, would at least want to consider it seriously. As  far as I could see, not one councillor paid it any attention whatsoever.

The committee decided to go ahead with the radical scheme C, which is functionally almost indistinguishable from the rejected 1997 scheme.

I decided to prepare a case for the Local Government "Ombudsman" on behalf of those people who had felt bullied by the questionnaire into not choosing No (perhaps because they wanted a little increase in footway width or realignment of the car park entrance), so chose scheme A or B because it seemed to be the least damaging of the three on offer, only to find that they had been counted in favour of the most damaging, radical option C.

The essence of the case is that the councils

and that this deception, whether deliberate or inadvertent. amounted to maladministration causing injustice to those who had, in good faith, opted for one of the less damaging schemes, to say nothing of marginalising those who had opted for no change.

More details will be added to this page in the coming weeks.
I am minded to publish the texts of all the evidence that I have offered to the Local Government Ombudsman in support of my constituents' complaints. This will take a little time. If you are interested in the story of how the public can be manipulated towards pre-determined outcomes in public consultations, please be patient, and revisit this page at weekly intervals.

12 July update:
I have today added a synopsis of the story so far.

21 July update:
I presented a paper to the Tavistock Town Council's Finance & General Purposes Committee this evening in a form very similar to the synopsis . The Committee then adopted nem con the following formal Motion, which will almost certainly be ratified by the Full Council on 4 August:

        1.   Council  considers the result of the 1998 consultation on the future  of 
        Bedford Square to be ambiguous. In particular, no attempt was made to  discern 
        the  view of supporters of schemes A and B about scheme C. Council notes  that 
        the  only interpretation offered to the Borough and County Councils  was  that 
        all supporters of A or B would also support C.
        2.   Council notes that this interpretation correlates poorly with the result 
        of the 1997 consultation. It considers that, in the absence of other evidence,  
        alternative  interpretations ought to be compared with the 1997 result to  try 
        to  explain  the apparent turnaround from 60.2% rejection in  1997  to  63.25% 
        approval in 1998.
        3.   Council  also  notes that explicit support for scheme C  was  37.67%  of 
        respondents and that the total response for Status Quo, minor changes,  scheme 
        A  and scheme B together amount to 61.07%, which correlates closely  with  the 
        60.2% who rejected the 1997 scheme.
        4.   Mindful  of  its  previously expressed concerns  about  the  tendentious 
        quality of some of the promotional material used in April and May 1998,  Coun-
        cil  therefore concludes that the most plausible explanation for the  observed 
        result is that support for schemes A and B was more likely to be an attempt to 
        choose  a "least damaging" scheme than an expression of support for  the  most 
        radical scheme C because this interpretation best fits the 1997 result and  is 
        also supported by anecdotal evidence.
        5.   Council considers that it is unsafe to conclude that substantial support 
        has  been demonstrated for scheme C. Council calls on the Borough  and  County 
        Councils  to  undertake a further public consultation to  confirm  substantial 
        support once the final scheme has been agreed.


Update 21 October 1998

The Bedford Square Referendum Group

Despite adopting my motion, the Town Council declined, at a subsequent meeting on 6 October, to run its own consultation to confirm (or otherwise) public support for the Bedford Square scheme. I therefore decided to organise an independent Referendum and to fund the printing and postal distribution (by the Royal Mail) of suitable papers to all residents in postal districts PL19 and PL20 - essentially Tavistock and its immediate surroudings - and their post-paid return to a central collecting point. Cllr Mrs Judith Williams offered to help and to contribute to the cost. We dubbed ourselves the Bedford Square Referendum Group and issued a press release locally on Thursday 8 October 1998.
Within 24 hours, we had an offer of further financial help from a local citizen who does not want his name used. As at 21 October 1998, we have a Referendum paper in draft and intend to distribute it before the end of November. We now await a date from Royal Mail when they can distribute the 12,000 or so Referendum papers

To ensure impartiality, we sought an independent and neutral person to act as custodian of the responses and to supervise the counting. The Vicar of Tavistock, Rev John Rawlings, has kindly agreed to do this.

Not surprisingly, the Borough Council's Working Group reacted to our Referendum announcement by saying that they will ignore it, saying that they are "entirely satisfied with the official consultation process which has already been undertaken". Well, they would say that, wouldn't they! They identified "key ingredients" of their process as follows:

They aver that the process has been "acknowledged by other organisations as a model of best practice". The "organisations" are not cited, and one has to wonder what comparators have been chosen to arrive at the notion of "best practice": compared with what, I ask.
They further assert that the scheme for Bedford Square wil commence in February 1999, and end with the following paragraph:
Given this background, the Working Group consider that the proposed private 
referendum fails to respect the time and trouble a vast number of people have 
taken to set out detailed views on the issue both in support of  work in Bedford 
Square and in opposition to it.

The Bedford Square Referendum Group considers that the consultation of May 1998 failed to respect proper democratic procedure. No attempt was made to discern the views of those who chose one of the options for moderate change about the prospect of radical change. Instead, they were assumed to be in favour of it, despite having clearly opted for something significantly less drastic. One suspects that two "moderate" options were included in order to split the moderate vote so as to allow the radical option to appear to succeed. The process is best compared to an election in which the Returning Officer choses the candidates, decides the number of candidates and writes for each of them their election manifestos.

Our Referendum will be as democratic as we can make it:

Top Update 23 Nov 98

Referendum - 3000 returns in first week. Will we break the record in week 2?

The Royal Mail began delivering the 12,500 Referendum forms to household in PL19 and PL20 on 16 November. Deliveries were completed by the end of the week.
So far, Royal Mail estimate that 3000 have been mailed back. This is a very high early rate of return. The councils' official consultation in May 1998 returned a total of only 2800 forms. As the councils allowed multiple returns from households, their results were on the basis of 3358 individuals. The Referendum has already beaten the official consultation for the number of responding households and seems likely to beat the 3358 target that we mentally set ourselves.

This is interesting in the light of the dismissive comment attributed to the Borough Council's Deputy Chief Executive by the local paper on 15 October 1998 that "If you keep consulting people time and time again, you gain no confidence in the statistical accountability because you will get a smaller and smaller amount of replies." I wonder whether he will now admit that the corollary is that, since we manifestly have the largest response of any consultation to date, he should now express confidence in it before he knows the outcome. Somehow doubt if he will be allowed to do that.

On the contrary, sundry luminaries of West Devon Borough Council have continued to lambast us, accusing me of "distasteful tactics", and claiming that "most people in favour of change will inevitably consign [the Referendum paper] to the bin, since their views have already been legitimately expressed, represented through the democratic process." Readers of this web site can form their own view of the legitmacy of that process.
The official view from the Borough Council continues to be that Bedford Square will be dug up and paved over as per the plan, starting in February 1999.

The County Council, however, which actually has the power to make final decisions about highways matters, has not reacted at all to the Referendum. The Referendum Group has written today to Tavistock's County Councillor, Roy Cook, inviting him to attend the count and to declare that he will use his powers to ensure that its result is reported fairly and that the County Council takes note of the outcome. This is what we wrote:

Dear Roy

Bedford Square Referendum

We write to invite you, as our County Councillor, to attend the Referendum count, 
starting at 0900 hrs on Wednesday 2 December 1998, in the Parish Rooms, 
Plymouth Road, Tavistock. The count will be open to the public and we expect to 
declare the result around noon.

As our County Councillor, your influence is crucial to the County Council's 
response to the oucome of the impending Referendum. We note that, alone amongst 
those with fingers deeply in the Bedford Square pie, you have not publicly rubbished 
our Referendum. We thank you for that.

We call on you now to undertake to use your powers as our County Councillor and 
as Chairman of the West Devon Partnership Committee to ensure that the result of 
the Referendum is reported fairly to the committee and to the council and to use your 
best endeavours to ensure that the council's actions in respect of Bedford Square 
properly reflect the wishes of your constituents as indicated by the Referendum.

Yours sincerely

Roger W Mathew		Judith A Williams		Marjorie J Corner
We await his response.

Counting the Referendum

Meanwhile, preparations for the count are going ahead. We have asked a recently-retired Borough Council officer, with experience of counting votes in elections, to act as Returning Officer, so that the count will be properly and fairly run. We have undertaken to pay the going rate for this important job.
Opening and sorting the returns will be done by volunteers, under the instructions of the Returning Officer. Counting of the sorted papers will be done by two local Justices of the Peace. The members of the Referendum Group will not handle the papers. The count will be in the Parish Rooms in Tavistock, starting at 0900 hours on Wednesday 2 December 1998 and will be open to as many of the press and public as can comfortably be accommodated. We think that this is as fair and open a process as is possible.


2 December to 5 December 1998

Referendum Result - A Resounding NO!

5102 people returned their Referendum forms. This was 42.4% of the 12,025 that were issued. That is a better turnout than many council elections, and no-one can say that it is not representative. By comparison, the councils' official consultation in May 1998 returned 2800 forms, representing 3358 individuals.

The Referendum result was
Spoiled 32 0.6%
Throughout the time since we announced that we would run the Referendum, various members of West Devon Borough Council have inveighed against us in the local press, condemning us for "acting undemocratically", predicting that few people would respond, or that those who favoured the Bedford Square scheme would not respond, so distorting any result and generally doing their best to discredit the Referendum.

We think that the result speaks for itself. We did not campaign for a NO vote: we left it to the people. We are not surprised that the people have overwhelmingly said NO - we ran the Referendum precisely because we were convinced by those who had been bending our ears since May 1998 that the official consultation had been tendentious and the official interpretation of it was wrong. We gave the people the chance to prove us wrong. Overwhelmingly, they have proved us right.

To those who say we have taken liberties with the properly established democratic process, I say: when elected representatives subvert the democratic process to claim public support for manifestly unpopular measures, the only thing to do is to go over the heads of the councils to the people themselves. That is what we have done, and I am not ashamed of it. Had I been wrong, the people would have shown me so, either by ignoring the Referendum or by voting to support the councils' scheme.

That is not what has happened. It is still open to the County Council to press on with the scheme: it has the legal power to do so. But it can no longer claim to do so with the support of the public it serves.

Even had we run a concerted campaign for a NO vote - which we did not - no campaign on earth could deliver a 72% result on a 42% turnout against the will of the respondents. I know that. You know that. The County Council knows that. Watch this space for further developments.


22 December 1998

Town and Parish Councils Reactions to the Referendum

A notice of Motion, signed by 7 members of the 16-strong Tavistock Town Council, was debated by a Special Meeting of the Council on the evening of 22 December. The Motion was as follows:
	Council notes that the Bedford Square Referendum showed clearly that 
	there is overwhelming opposition by the people of Tavistock to the 
	proposed scheme for Bedford Square.

	Council therefore joins its people in declaring its opposition to the 
	scheme, calls on the Devon County Council to withdraw the scheme 
	and resolves to use its best endeavours to oppose and, if necessary, 
	frustrate the scheme.
Meanwhile, Gulworthy Parish Council and Peter Tavy Parish Council had each held meetings at which they decided unanimously to ask Devon County Council to undertake no works in Bedford Square, Tavistock. I was able to get copies of their resulting letters to West Devon Borough Council's and Devon County Council's Chief Executives, and present them to Town Councillors in time for the debate in Tavistock's Town Hall.
Obviously, it would have been desirable for Tavistock's own Town Council also to vote unanimously to support its own people. In the event, the council divided, all but one of the party political members voting against. The vote was recorded, and ran thus:
Mrs Batchelor (Lab)Miss Brace (Lab)
Mrs Corner (Ind)Mrs Gorbutt (Lab)
Mrs Johnson (Ind)Mrs Lake (Lab)
Mr Mathew (Ind)Mr Masterton (Ind)
Mr Pike (Ind)Mr Sanders (Ind)Mrs B Sherrell (Lab)
Mr E H Sherrell (Ind)Mr Smith (Lab)
Mrs Williams (Ind)Mrs Woodcock (Ind)
Mr Wright (Ind) (Mayor)
The Mayor applied his casting vote FOR the motion, which was accordingly declared CARRIED.

I think that Tavistock's people will be puzzled and dismayed that their own town council found it so difficult to support their clear rejection - by no less than 73% - of the Bedford Square scheme, particularly when two neighbouring Parish Councils had unanimously decided to do so. The attitude of the Labour Group would have been understandable if they had adopted a position of principle on the issue from the outset; but they had not done this. Indeed, it is difficult to know on what basis they might have, and their contributions to the debate did not reveal any, apart from generalised criticism of the notion of the privately-funded Referendum.
That seems to me to be a pretty thin basis on which to oppose a 73% majority.


I shall bring you further developments as they happen.

26 January 1999

Betrayal at the County Environment Committee

Our County Councillor, Roy Cook, had agreed, under relentless pressure from me, to report the result of the Referendum to the County Council's Environment Committee on 26 January. He therefore asked that the Bedfrod Square issue be considered again by that committee. I attended the meeting, on the public observation benches, and heard Cllr Cook dismiss the Referendum as a mere "protest vote" and advise the committee to reconfirm its previous decision to go ahead with the scheme.

This cynical betrayal did not surprise me, as it had been obvious for some time that the ruling LibDem Group at County Hall and their colleagues at West Devon Borough Council were determined to steamroller the scheme through regardless of public opinion - though they would obviously prefer to be able to claim public support, however implausibly. The fact that our independent Referendum had shown their manipulated consultation up as the sham that it was counted for nothing beside their doctrinaire determination to impose the destruction of Tavistock's central square.

March 1999

The Rape of Bedford Square Begins

Earthmoving machinery moved into Bedford Square, Tavistock in the first week of March 1999. It is there as I write. I am recording the destruction in
pictures. This page will take some time to load. Shortly AFTER the work started, the formal statutory Traffic Orders were published. The public have until 12 March to make representations and objections to the Orders. The Town Council meeting on 2 March resolved to object formally to several details, including the unrealistic limit of 2 minutes waiting for pick up and drop off and the miserly 11 metres of space allowed for the purpose, not to mention two unnecessary and intrusive "road humps" on the northern approach road, which had never previously been evident in any of the consultation documents.

Anger is palpable on the streets of Tavistock as the work proceeds. On Saturday, 6 March, there was a protest demonstration by a group which included present and former Town Councillors.

On Monday, 15 March, the West Devon Partnership Committee was due to consider whether to confirm the draft Traffic Orders. As the period for objections had only closed on the previous Friday, no report was available to be distributed to Members with the agenda for the meeting. At the meeting, a synopsis of objections received was tabled as we sat down to start the meeting. The synopsis was a fair summary as far as it went, but it was defective inasmuch as it omitted at least one objection, together with a petition of over 200 signatures, which I knew to have been submitted because the objector had sent me a copy. When I drew attention to this, it became clear that the County Environment Department had mistaken the closing date for objections and had consequently omitted this objection in error.

I at once moved that consideration of the Traffic Orders be deferred to the next meeting of the committee for a complete and proper written report from officers; and that work on the scheme be halted meanwhile. This must have embarrassed the committee more than somewhat because, rather to my surprise, there was no opposition to deferring the decision, though I did not succeed in getting the work halted. This is the only occassion when I have been supported by Borough or County Councillors on the Bedford Square issue.

Forthcoming Elections

On 6 May 1999, there are elections for the Town and Borough Councils. It will be interesting to see to what extent the Bedford Square issue affects the outcome. I have not yet decided whether to stand again: if I do, I shall try to find time to hoist my election address onto this Web Site and to bring you the latest information about the progress of the election.

Thank you for reading this.

Updated 16 March 1999
Mailto updated 23 Oct 02


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