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Former mayor criticises demise of Christchurch
A FORMER Christchurch councillor has hit out at the state of the borough, calling on councillors to help halt the area’s “demise”.
Mike Winfield, who was also Mayor twice during his time at Christchurch Council from 1979-1987, said the degeneration of the historic borough was becoming obvious for all to see.
“It’s no longer a place where time is pleasant”, Mr Winfield said.
“The merger with East Dorset I understand for financial reasons, but it’s not going to have any benefit for Christchurch.
“Already you can see how it is affecting the borough, especially environmentally and also to do with planning issues.”
Incensed about officers approving plans for a new vicarage in the conservation area, Mr Winfield, now 72, said: “This is a sensitive site in the heart of our town.
“It is a major planning application and should have been decided upon by councillors. In my day, it would have gone to full council as well.
“There are many other options for a new vicarage, which I’m sure haven’t been considered. The easy option was taken without councillors having a say.”
Mr Winfield has put his concerns in a letter to all Christchurch councillors and the Chief Executive, David McIntosh, but has only received a response from one person.
As well as contentious planning schemes, Mr Winfield also spoke out about the amount of signage in the borough, calling for a crackdown.
“Everywhere you look there are posters everywhere advertising businesses and events and services. It looks really scruffy”, he said.
He added: “I know it’s all about money at the moment and balancing budgets. But councillors should be keeping their eyes open.”
DAVID Barnes, strategic director at the Christchurch and East Dorset Partnership, said: “Local Government has been the subject of unprecedented cuts in funding support from central government which in Christchurch has amounted to a 28% reduction in grant, with more reductions to come.
"Joint working with East Dorset and the efficiencies created in moving to a single officer structure is crucial in protecting services which the Council would otherwise have to reduce or withdraw.
“There have been no changes to the approach to deciding planning applications or dealing with environmental enforcement issues; indeed, the joint working with East Dorset is helping these services to be more resilient and efficient.
“The sovereignty of each Council is not and has never been in question; Christchurch Councillors will continue to make decisions on Christchurch matters.”