12 – Attend a council meeting

I went to a council meeting last month. We had to visit at least one local meeting for our Public Administration module and, to be honest, I wasn’t looking forwards to it.

I tried to go to a meeting before I went to Manchester for my placement but I turned up a couple of minutes late and couldn’t work out where I needed to be so I awkwardly stood outside the meeting room for 20 minutes before swiftly taking my leave and scuttling home.

When I returned to Lincoln after Easter, I arranged to go with a few friends from uni to avoid a similar situation. We were ‘booked in’ to visit a Planning Committee meeting on April 26th and I was dreading it.

A large amount of our class turned up to the City of Lincoln Council at 5:30pm sharp and we all took our seats, only just fitting alongside the members of the public who were also in attendance.

We were all expecting the experience to be a drag, a boredom fest that could eat into two hours of our evening before we could be free.

When the meeting began, I was pleasantly surprised at how mistaken I had been.

The committee started off by going through a few formalities, reading out apologies, asking for any points of interest to be declared, and finalising the minutes from the last meeting.

After this, the real agenda began.

Points up for discussion this week included the placement of the knight’s trail, an amendment to the constitution and a retrospective application to keep new windows in a conservation zone. The first item to be discussed, however, would prove to be the most interesting.

Network Rail were presenting their updated plans for a footbridge over the railway at the Brayford Wharf East Railway Crossing, after the lifts on the bridge had to be removed due to an issue with funding.

bridge

The bridge in question Source: Network Rail

The discussion of the proposal quickly turned heated. The committee were all appalled at the lack of accessibility for those in wheelchairs or with prams and all decided to voice their similar opinions in different ways. One Councillor started talking about road bridges before he was cut off by the chair for getting off topic.

The chairman summed up by saying that we would get this bridge or no bridge, and the removal of the lifts made it much more aesthetically pleasing. Both sides of the argument had convinced me each way multiple times over the course of this debate but his proposal to accept the plans failed to be seconded. The motion to reject it was backed 7-1 with three abstaining from the vote.

I could have left at this stage but the drama had drawn me in. I stayed for another hour and listened to Councillors misunderstanding the information they were being given, heard people arguing that an application should be rejected to send a message of intolerance to a breach of article four (even though the application was technically not in breach of it), and, best of all, experienced the beautiful moment when someone asked if the knight statues could be picked up and thrown through a shop window, because if so he didn’t want to approve them in case the council was liable.

I came out of the meeting cracked up. The lift-less bridge had been rejected, the PVC windows in a conservation area had been accepted as they fitted the style pattern, and the knights had been deemed unmovable and unlikely to be used to cause criminal damage.

My time at the meeting was certainly interesting, and at points I really didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at what I was hearing, but I’m quite glad that these people are able to decide on the future of the city. Despite the comments I’ve made here, I’d much rather have someone too keen to turn a proposal down when it should be accepted than have people accept what should be rejected.

 

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