Archway debate held in secret

DISCUSSION on the controversial Diamond Jubilee commemorative archway proposed for March was stifled at Monday night’s town council meeting as councillors were told not to discuss the matter in the public forum.

Town councillors went into committee following the meeting at the Town Hall to discuss the matter, excluding members of the press and public from witnessing what was anticipated to be heated debate on the topic.

The idea of a memorial arch to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee has not found favour with many March residents.

General public opinion seems to be that the estimated £30,000 to £35,000 cost to create an archway is a waste of money and could be better spent elsewhere.

At the council meeting, Cllr Steve Count questioned this cost and asked where the money would be coming from.

Cllr Count was unhappy that it had been stated in press reports that precepts and reserves are expected to be used and said: “You can’t say that because the town council hasn’t agreed it.”

Fenland District Council have confirmed that each Town and Parish Council will receive £1,000 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee.

Cllr Howes also queried that only two designs for an archway had been submitted by what appeared to be the same company – Deltagold Limited, run by Chris Howes.

Town clerk Clive Lemmon explained Chris Howes had been approached following his work on the Town Hall’s Britannia statue and one of the designs came from a local artist. He said any further discussion should wait until they were in committee.

Cllr Mike Shermer said he was under the impression that the public would be asked what they want to mark the anniversary.

Cllr Jan French, who is chairman of the Diamond Jubilee Committee, said that they would not have time to go through “1,000 designs” if they had asked people for their designs.

She concluded: “When we get a decision from the council, we will do full consultation with the public. If we make a decision and members of the public don’t want anything, we will listen to the people of March and will do nothing.”

The council went into committee, stating finances of the town council would be discussed. The vote was proposed by Cllr Jan French and seconded by Cllr Bernard Keane and was unanimous.

Following the meeting, March Town Council put out the following statement:

“At a meeting of March Town Council on September 5, the following points were unanimously agreed regarding its proposed celebrations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee:

“The electorate can be assured that the proposed celebrations, including a possible lasting commemorative feature within the town, will not result in any rise in the precept.

“Commemorative mugs or coins are being considered for all lower-school children. A hog roast is being costed, but has not been confirmed.

“A lasting commemorative feature within the town is deemed desirable, and a budget for this has been agreed.

“Good quality responses have been received to the proposal of a memorial arch, both pro and anti.

“Because of a minor number of detrimental comments being made, it has been agreed that further suggestions should be sought from the electorate up until Friday 16th September 2011. Individuals and schools are encouraged to forward their views or proposals to the Town Clerk at marchtowncouncil@btconnect.com or by post to March Town Hall, The Market Place, March, PE15 9QH.

“A lasting commemorative feature within the town, although deemed desirable is not a fait accompli. Feedback from the electorate will be the deciding factor in whether this idea is progressed further.”