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Fair, Trade, Green?

Fair, Trade, Green?There is a row brewing over the uses to which Lytham Green might be put. Even Clerics are getting involved, so we thought we'd have a look at what's going on for the benefit of our readers.

It is a row that grew out of the Commissar's 'Street Trading' initiative which (with good cause) infuriated shopkeepers and caused a coming together of disparate forces that might otherwise not have happened.

What the Commissar simply doesn't get, is that his little money-grubbing schemes are wholly at odds with the culture and ethos of this area.

Those of us with longer memories know that it was not that many years ago that a well-meaning, but equally ill-fated attempt, by better men than those currently in the frame, held a Victorian / Edwardian Fair on the Green. It was a straightforward enough event in itself, but it was a disaster for the image and identity of Lytham - which has a very specialised clientele.

As one well known lady shopkeeper wrote in disgust of the event "The last thing Lytham needs is people wandering around in shell suits munching burgers" That became one of counterbalance's favourite quotes. It is a cogent - (if somewhat rough-and-ready) expression of what Lytham is not, and should not, become.

It is absolutely spot on.

It was even more recently that 'the Triangle' of land at the St Annes end of the green was owned by the YMCA. And in a bid to maximise the income from such assets so they could meet their charitable objectives, they set up a car boot sale operation there. Whilst good for the YM This was very damaging in two ways.

Firstly, contrary to the desire of the present Government - and Harriet Harridan in particular - Lytham is chiefly about discrimination and selection. It's about being 'up market' not 'a market' so its image was being damaged by the car boot sale. Secondly, people were being diverted from the main street to see what was going on. And regulars couldn't find a parking spot in town.

The Council of the day, (chaired by John Tavernor if memory serves), took steps to put the matter right. They effected a land swap with the YMCA for land near the YM in St Annes and, once the Council were in ownership of the triangle, they closed the car boot down.

Just compare the understanding and empathy of that former Council, with the plans of this financially incompetent money-grabbing little administration.

But it's not just the Commissar's overt commercial motivation that underlies the plan for 'events' on the Green that so appals the 'old money' folk of Lytham, it's the disregard for propriety. Just as we saw at Lowther Gardens where the Commissar stood ready to completely disregard the promises made when the land was accepted.

But in that case it was even worse, he expressed anger toward those who, as he saw it, had the temerity to remind him of his responsibility.

Dummies and pram's spring to mind.

It's just the same at Lytham Green. We've seen the terms under which the land was given, and we understand that, like Lowther, the surrounding houses share the benefit of these terms. We've reproduced them here so our readers can see what undertakings were given, and come to their own conclusions abut what the benefactor of the green intended.

Covenants contained in the Clifton Deed of Gift (1923) relating to Lytham Green.

1. The Corporation will at all times hereafter hold the said piece of land [Lytham Green] hereby conveyed as and for an open space for the free use and enjoyment of the Public and (except as hereinafter mentioned) leave the same open, unbuilt upon and (except for the fencing on the seaward side of the Promenade) unenclosed.

2. The Corporation will at all times keep the Beach and Promenade in good and tidy order and condition and free from rubbish and will preserve order and good conduct amongst the persons frequenting or using the same.

3. The Corporation will maintain and keep in good repair and condition the stone hulking sea wall or embankment and the stone steps, slades and causeways leading down to the sea shore and the iron fences, walks, footways, roads, grass surface, flag poles and the shelters and all other erections thereon.

4. The Corporation will not erect or permit to be erected on (Lytham Green) any shelters, booths, tents, sheds, stalls, sanitary conveniences or other buildings or structures (other than those now being thereon) or enlarge or alter any structures or erections for the time being thereon without the consent in writing of and according to plans approved of by (Squire Clifton), his heirs or assigns and no erections shall be more than ten feet in height from the ground level to the square except the Windmill which may bereconstructed to its former height in the same position.

5. The Corporation will not permit on (Lytham Green) or the Promenade the sale or hawking of any articles nor use or permit the said piece of land or any part of it or the hulking or any erection thereof for the purpose of public advertisements or for any purpose which may be an obstruction, nuisance or annoyance.

6. The Corporation will not (without the consent in writing of (Squire Clifton), his heirs or assigns) lay out any part of (Lytham Green) for the purpose of ornamental flower gardens nor erect any or plan fences or screens of such a character as shall prevent an uninterrupted view across or along the said land.

7. The Corporation will not permit or suffer public meetings for the propagation, preaching or discussion of political, religious, trade or social questions or matters or other matters of controversy to be held or religious services to be conducted or lectures or addresses to be delivered on the said Beach or Promenade or any part thereof

8. The Corporation will observe the covenants on the part of the Lessors contained in the Leases of the adjoining or neighbouring lands or any of such Leases so far as such covenants relate to (Lytham Green) and the Promenade or the user thereof and will indemnify (Squire Clifton), his heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, estate and effects from and against all claims and demands on account thereof"

We regard that as pretty conclusive.

Of course, the Commissar will argue all sorts of things to counter it. He will pick the odd word here and there as his henchmen are already doing - "it was give for the people to use" and "It's just a modern interpretation of the agreement" but those that have seen the terms will understand the thinking behind the gift - and it clearly was not for 'events'.

Its openness has dignity.

It's constance and unchanging permanence is the very fabric and character of Lytham.

But the present administration cares little for such values. John Coombes has amply demonstrated that already - by doing the same sort of thing at Ashton Gardens. He wants to have those important Grade II Listed gardens as 'a vibrant outdoor leisure centre.'

In his drive toward this end, he has already disregarded another clearly written covenant not to offer alcohol for sale in Ashton Gardens, and he is in full flood to create his own version of an alcohol-serving, activity-and-event-driven heaven there. That is, if he isn't stopped one way or another.

These are the reasons why he and his cohorts are so out of step with the community they're (or at least should be) serving, and why they are doomed to fall from grace when the time to choose comes around again, as soon it will.

It might be too late for Ashton Gardens at the moment, but so far as Lytham Green is concerned, we expect the Council will have to change its mind, just as they did when Lowther Gardens was shown to be a Charitable Trust. We heard tell that officers were preparing to 'call the bluff' of those in Lytham who were challenging their plans.

That's an unwise move.

But what's really wrong here is that this administration ever thought they could properly make such plans anyway. They have the least ethics and the most incompetence of any administration that has graced the Town Hall.

They do what they think they can get away with.

We think they're about to be proved wrong again, and we hope they are.

Time will tell.

Dated:  10 February 2010

UPDATE: 13 February
counterbalance often receives responses to what we publish, but this article attracted two that might interest readers. One noted the view that because the Cliftons did not assign the benefit of the covenants there is no on left to enforce them, and the other suggested that knowingly accepting an event onto an area which may not be used for such purposes might provide a get-out clause for the Council's insurers in the event of something going wrong, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. We leave our readers to judge the weight of these interesting views.


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