Agenda item

Public Question Time

The procedure for submitting public questions in writing no later than 12:00 on 11 March 2019 is available upon request from Democratic Services (the contact details for which appear on the front page of this agenda).


The following public question had been submitted by Mr P Robinson who was in attendance at the meeting to ask his question:


Mr Robinson addressed the Committee. It was a delight to come and see a Committee with a very important role in the preservation of our democracy.  Probably today was symbolic that Committees such as this do fulfil a vital role.  On the substantive question there were many issues that we had about the report submitted to the Committee.  The Chichester Vision on page 42 stated “we wish to take community with us”. He made an observation that he felt slightly disappointed that this did not happen in the proceedings associated with the ice rink, which he bitterly regretted.  With regard to his public question, He advised that he was a historian and spent his life searching for evidence looking for the traces of history and completing the jigsaw puzzle and trying to reach a conclusion.  He was intrigued that when the alleged outcome of the ice rink was looked at, and its so called success, the promotors had declared there had been 19,072 skaters.  However the following day the figure was altered to 21,000.  He was intrigued about the lower figure, which contrasted with the forensic analysis carried out on the actual number of skaters day by day on S3K limited’s website, as this showed that the number of skaters totalled just short of 11,000.  He was also intrigued by the claim in the report that many people had watched the skaters, which did not correspond with his own observations on several occasions.  Neither did the photograph published by the Chichester Observer on Thursday 7 March 2019, which did not seem to show many people on the ice rink.  He was intrigued way the report before members made no reference to the concessions used to support the ice rink.  He had been led to believe that none had made a profit and that three of the concessions had wanted to leave early but could not as they were boxed in.


Mr Robinson asked his question as follows which was answered by the Chairman:


Question: Will the Committee seek, and publish an independently verified assessment of the numbers of tickets sold to skaters at the ice-rink in Priory Park, together with information from the ‘ancillary food and drink concessions’ on their evaluation of the event?


Answer: Mr Robinson, in response to your question can I first clarify the role of Overview and Scrutiny Committee today.  We will, later in today’s agenda, receive a Review report from officers regarding the temporary use of Priory Park to host an Ice skating Rink.  The Committee will seek to satisfy themselves of the process officers have followed in undertaking their review, before commenting on the findings of the review.  This Committee is not undertaking an evaluation of the event.


I understand that officers have received confirmation data of daily sales figures from the contractor which correspond to the overall figure of 19,072 skaters reported in the main Committee report.  The contractors, S3K, are not contractually obliged to provide this or any further information.


The comments from Friends of Priory Park regarding the report have been appended for this Committee to consider, at item 6 on today’s agenda.


The Chairman asked if Mr Robinson would like to add anything further.


Mr Robinson, advised that other than it was interesting that the ‘traffic light’ system well used in Priory Park up until this event, suspended during the event, had now been reinstated, he had no further comments.


Councillor R Plowman, addressed the Committee.  He commented that the process for the ice rink had been very rushed, being evident both in the planning and also the subsequent work.  The desk top noise study was performed on different equipment to that installed at the site.  The process was rushed.  The Planning Committee had considered the planning application before the end of the consultation period and deferred the application for one month, due to substantive issues, such as the pegs specified for the use with the marque being against the archaeology recommendations of Historic England.  He asked with regard to the restoration of the grass, which he commented that those who had seen the site had seen very substantial grass damage.  In many areas it had also collapsed with dense compaction now filled up with water.  His background was a trained botanist, specifically in grasses, with a degree in special botany with biochemistry.  He was very concerned that, without a great deal of work, the area could be restored to its former state. The large amount of composted bark laid and incorporated into the soil due to the muddy conditions was detrimental to the development of grass.Ornamental grasses were sensitive to the release of phenals that acted as a weed killer in the soil and the grass will never re-establish. 


He asked the Committee to consider that a full expert independent review of the turf situation should be carried out, and use it going forward, as he felt that if the area was used for events over the next year or so there will be long term sustainable damage to this grassed area of Priory Park.


Mrs Peyman responded to Mr Plowman’s question.  With regard to the grass reinstatement, the planning conditions required the satisfactory reinstatement of the grass.  Numerous visits had taken place on the site. The last visit had taken place the previous Friday with the contractor and Chichester Contract Services (CCS) grounds maintenance staff to review the current condition of the ground.  CCS was satisfied that the grass was coming back and will regain its previous condition prior to the ice skating rink.  The planning condition has not been discharged yet and further works have been agreed, to include scarifying fertilizing, over seeding and top dressing, to be carried out as soon as possible, weather permitting.  CCS had no concerns about the current reinstatement or that this area of land would not be ready and suitable to use for forthcoming events.


The ground would be reviewed afterwards and should the reinstatement not be satisfactory the contractors deposit will be retained until the works are signed off.  If members wished a review at that time to be undertaken that request could be taken forward.  However, the Council did have qualified grounds maintenance staff at CCS, who have worked on the site for a number of years.