To receive any questions or petitions from members of the public.
(NOTE: There is a time limit of up to 30 minutes for the above item of business. In accordance with the arrangements published on the Council’s website, questions/petitions at the meeting are required to be submitted in writing, to firstname.lastname@example.org, by 9.00 a.m. on ************ 2023).
The Policy Committee received no petitions from members of the public.
The Committee received three questions from members of the public. Two members of the public consented to ask their questions at the start of item 8. to which the questions directly related.
Question from: Friends of Graves Park
Regarding the Tennis Courts Proposed Project:
The Friends of Graves Park object to this 25 year disposal of the tennis courts to a private company, which is privatisation of charitable parkland, as it transforms publicly owned assets into privatised holdings, in Graves Park and the other charitable parks and would like to ask the following questions:
1. Are the members of the Charity subcommittee aware that they are acting as trustees for those parks which are charitable and the consequent implications?
2. Is the Charity Subcommittee aware that there is no such company with the name of “Courtside CIC”? This displaying the calibre of attention to detail of the report in Agenda Item 8, is the Charity Subcommittee confident that there are no other fundamental errors in this report or in the planning of this proposed disposal?
3. What is the correct name of the company concerned and why was this company chosen over the others?
4. Which companies were approached in the selection process, how many companies were in this process and how many of these companies shared the same directors?
5. When did the council go through the selection process for this company?
6. Is the Charity Subcommittee aware that the notices for the disposals of these plots of Charitable land were posted at the beginning of the summer holidays and responses expected by 21st for disposal of parks and 28th August, a bank holiday, for the notices regarding Charitable land? Are they also aware that many of the Friends groups of the parks concerned were unaware that this privatisation concerned their parks? This being the case, does the Charity subcommittee accept that as a process of notification, this process is flawed, undemocratic and should therefore be redone?
7. Is the Subcommittee aware and will the council acknowledge that the tennis hub deal is tied in with the Tramlines festival and that is why the dubious and illogical decision to continue to hold Tramlines in Hillsborough Park has been pushed through?
8. How does this proposal directly benefit the Graves Park Trust? If there is no significant benefit to the Graves Park Trust, how can the Charity Subcommittee agree to this proposal while maintaining the impartiality to act in the best interests of the Graves Park Trust, in its role as trustee?
9. Can the Charity Subcommittee confirm that the council has approached the Charity Commission to check that a scheme is not needed in the case of this disposal? If they have checked, on what date was this done? If they have not checked, why not?
10.In the face of such overwhelming opposition to the scheme why would the council continue with it, especially after the understanding that all that is legal is not right, as proved by the Lowcock report over which they have lost so much public trust?
Taking into account the answers to all the above questions and the information above that has now been shared with the Charity Subcommittee and Sheffield City Council as an organisation, as we have now drawn your attention to these matters, anyone who subsequently proceeds with this proposal does so in full knowledge of its inherent inaccuracies.
Further Questions regarding Graves Park:
1. What is the Charity Subcommittee’s response regarding the charitable land in Graves Park that is currently still waiting to be restored to parkland? This land is the old Norton Nurseries site, two parts of which are already restored (by Friends of Graves Park) and open to the public. The Friends have been waiting for permission to start the next section for the past 8 years. The Friends already have a scheme for this work and have already agreed to fund the restoration. Can you give us a time scale of when that permission will be forthcoming? Could it be possibly in the next 12 months? (Please note this is a revision of a question asked in 2022, also in previous years and we are still waiting for a satisfactory answer. Please also note that the Parks department are currently using this as a depot and waste collection site for 36 parks and open spaces, even though Freedom of Information responses deny that it is a depot and that on at least 2 occasions in the past this was stated to be derelict and surplus to requirements and then the council tried to sell it off, which is why the Friends of Graves Park are keen to restore it to parkland.)
2. As the councillors must be aware, once a proper scheme is put together, applying for funding and grants for a project can go ahead, so, is it possible for the Charity Subcommittee to encourage the council officers to work with the Friends of Graves Park to put together a business plan to restore the Rose Garden Café back to its former glory as a matter of urgency, so that the Friends can pursue applying for funding?
The Chair thanked the questioner for bringing these questions to the committee and explained that a full written response would be provided.