Public Accused Of Scaremongering -
There was two aspects to the public meeting: Traffic in Whitehaven, and Whitehaven Townscape Heritage - this covered the redevelopment of the marketplace, and the new Whitehaven Foyer, which will be based in the dilapidated YMCA.
On 17th April, the following letter appeared in the Whitehaven News from a Whitehaven resident, who was at the Public meeting:
On February 26th. at St. Gregory and St. Patricks School, Whitehaven, CCC gave two presentations. The first was about the forthcoming traffic gridlock that is to beset Whitehaven and main access roads, with still no reply to questions asked, although promised by CCC Highways manager. The second was about Whitehaven Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI).
A presentation was given by Ms. Hayley McKay, Project Development Manager, Impact Housing. The content of this was explaining what is to become of Whitehaven YMCA, which is to be turned into what will be known as 'The Whitehaven Foyer'.
Impact Housing have apparently built similar buildings elsewhere. The purpose of this building is to house displaced/homeless adolescents. A degree of training, we were assured, will be given to the residents.
Upon being pressed as to where the residents will come from, Ms. McKay finally admitted that the scenario could happen that not ALL the residents need necessarily be from Cumbria. When pressed again, Ms. McKay finally admitted the case may be that NONE of the residents come from Cumbria, and indeed they could come from Liverpool, Preston, even as far as London.
There are several questions that need to be answered for the residents of Copeland:
- If this needs to go forward, why is it not wholly for the residents of Copeland, for Copeland people?
- What are the type of reasons adolescents will be brought from other parts of the country to our area?
- Will these people be brought here because they have been involved in criminal activities within their own areas, and if so, how serious were their crimes?
- Is the centre of Whitehaven an appropriate place, with its plentiful supply of pubs and gambling establishments, for a rehabilitation centre?
- Were the public toilets knocked down to accommodate this building?
- Have the people of Whitehaven been fully informed as to the nature and purpose of this building?
- Is there to be a curfew on the residents?
- Is this building and its prospective residents what the people of Distington turned down through invoking their democratic right of refusal, and therefore, this is why is has appeared in Whitehaven?
- Do the residents of Whitehaven need this, given that Copeland Borough Council are forever, supposedly, conducting 'public consultations?
On 18th April, Councillor Wendy Skillicorn started a thread on Facebook, about the Whitehaven Foyer. She said:
Copeland Borough Council are, yet again, complicit in hiding facts from the people of Copeland, that the people of our area have a need and right to know.
- Where is the consensus from the residents of Whitehaven that this type of establishment should go ahead?
Enough is enough of duplicity coming from the very people who we have grown to realise do not and have not represented our best interests for quite some time.
Brilliant Project, pleased we're getting one for young people in Whitehaven.I set about quizzing Cllr Skillicorn about the letter which appeared in the Whitehaven News, from Mr Bern Birbeck:
Could you confirm the admission from Ms. McKay, who was at the February 26th Meeting, at St. Gregory and St. Patricks School, where she said that NONE of the residents may come from Cumbria, and indeed they could come from Liverpool, Preston, even as far as London. Thanks.Wendy Skillicorn: That is absolutely NOT what I heard. The Whitehaven Foyer is being resourced and built in response to a local need. Knowing the good work and positive outcomes from the Eden Foyer and seeing the need for a similar project in West Cumbria two long established Cumbrian charities, Howgill Family Centre and Impact Housing Association have come together to develop West Cumbria’s first Foyer. Together they have formed the Whitehaven Foyer Company and purchased the former Y.M.C.A. building on Irish Street, Whitehaven.
This grade two listed building, though in a dilapidated state, has tremendous potential, in terms of size and location to become an iconic Foyer. The renovation of the main building will blend the best features of the original building with contemporary, attractive features, creating a welcoming, vibrant space. The poorly constructed building at the rear replaced with flats to provide integrated support and accommodation for vulnerable young people. The Foyer will work with young people, families and community in raising aspirations, attainment, employability and skills so they can participate fully in economic, civic and social life.
Lewis Holt: Read Ben Birbeck letter in Whaven News.....food for thought.
Mike Hawkins: Bern Birbeck is scaremongering I chaired that meeting which Mr Birbeck tried to highjack and I would suggest that he only hears what he wants I can assure you what was said at that meeting is not what Mr Birbeck is saying. Always something to whinge about.
Sean Duffy: If its so good, why was it rejected in Workington? Times & Star: Youth centre plan refused. Nearly 100 letters of objection and a 445-name petition were submitted by residents, who feared it would become a trouble hotspot.
Sean Duffy: I've just had a look on Eden Council website. In 2009 planning permission was refused for an extension to the building. Various reasons listed, but one being large number of police call outs. So, if Mr Birbeck is only hearing what he wants to hear, I must only be seeing what I want to see. The link is here for all to see.
Sean Duffy: Please don't get me wrong here. There is a need for somewhere for the young and homeless, but people need to be given facts, and be allowed to go into this with eyes wide open, instead of just listening to those that gloss over stuff and avoid talking about rough edges and reality. The fact is, that Foyer projects up HAVE resulted in more police incidents.
Jaynee Lainé: Wendy Skillicorn the question was definitely raised to Ms. McKay regarding this homeless home of 25 beds. It was asked 'would the kids (under 25s) of Copeland be the ones that would be living in it. She specifically answered stating that the 25 beds for the homeless would not be restricted to just Copeland kids. If you remember the question was also asked about if Foyer would liaise with the schools before kids left at 16, again it was stated that they 'might' but nothing was guaranteed or set in stone. Are you now saying that in a room of 40+ attendance that these two questions were not asked and answered? Perhaps if you could read one chaps letter in the Whitehaven News - he was the person in attendance to ask such questions.
Wendy Skillicorn: I am saying that she said that 'NONE' of the residents may come from Cumbria, and indeed they could come from Liverpool, Preston, even as far as London is untrue.
Jaynee Lainé: I think that you may have miss understood what I said. The question was posed to her. You and Mr Hawkins were chairing the meeting and so you were taking questions from the audience. I know 100% that you remember the question being asked. She may have answered it in not the exact words that are above, but when this was posed back to her ' she agreed ' . Can you understand and remember the groans in the room?
Wendy Skillicorn: Impact is a Cumbrian organisation and Howgill Copeland. I also remember the many favourable and positive comments in the room.
Wendy Skillicorn: I think maybe we all hear what we want to hear. If we are determined to believe nothing good can be achieved in our town , by anyone then all we ever see and hear will be negative.
Jaynee Lainé: No one is being negative - what gets peoples backs up in this town is that the public are NEVER informed. Then all of a sudden it is a done deal. If you think people are being negative Wendy - perhaps a Town Council would have prevented any negativity and we would get it right first time. instead - we have NEVER been allowed to have a Town Council - volunteer residents hearing about proposals like this before they happen. I am behind the 'idea' of Foyer' however in a town that is my own I would have preferred the 25 self contained rooms to be used only for Copelands youths. The favourable comments in the room was the fact that the building was inkeeping and they had made a good job of it. Other questions that were raised regarded how this would affect other 'existing' businesses such as Bakewell House and the harbour project. It was stated that they would compliment each other. Someone else also talked about 'councilling and enhancing' their people skills and everyday 'living skills'. I think the sour note was really regarding the fact that 'potentially' undersirables could come from anywhere in the country. I am not stating that every homeless person is undesirable - I am simply stating that the general consensus in the room was that if its using Copeland money and in a Copeland town it should be restricted to Copeland Kids !!
Jaynee Lainé: To add, they are 'not' all kids. This homeless hostel will house people up to the age of 25 maximum (for a period of no longer than 2 years). I did write some minutes Wendy.
Sean Duffy: Hi Wendy Skillicorn - are you able to guarantee that this will be only available to kids from Copeland. I'm sure that would put minds at rest. Sorry - youths
Wendy Skillicorn: The project is designed and funded to address a local need. Impact is a Cumbrian and Howgill a Copeland project.
Sean Duffy: That's not a guarantee.
At this point, Cllr Wendy Skillicorn did a runner from the conversation. The thread did continue. No response was given to the question about guaranteeing that the Whitehaven Foyer would only contain residents from Whitehaven.
It Is Now Time For The Truth To Come OutThe truth is, that it is only Councillors that hear, and see what they want to. They can't hack direct questioning, and run off into the sunshine to avoid embarrassment. Listen with your own ears:
About this recording: The recording was carried out for journalistic purposes, at a public meeting and was intended to be kept private, for reference. However, due to the above Facebook thread, it was felt that it should be released because public interest outweighs expectations of privacy.