Banbury’s green spaces sparks fiery town council debate

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Insults, confusion over procedure and dissent directed at the chamber from the public were just some of the highlights from Tuesday evening’s Banbury Town Council meeting.

Emotions were running high as the latest and final fallout from the town council’s controversial planning application to build a 23-space car park on Easington Rec came to a head. The proposal was withdrawn and alternative arrangements found after much criticism from nearby residents.

Leader of the Labour party, Cllr Steve Kilsby, proposed a motion at Tuesday’s meeting in the town hall to protect all of Banbury’s green spaces.

It read: “This council believes that green space within Banbury’s town boundary is precious and that, as custodians of much of the town’s parks and green space, it is incumbent upon the town council to resist any attempts to pave or build upon any part of our existing parks or to reduce them in any way.”

Conservative leader Cllr Kieron Mallon then proposed an amendment to the resolution specifically replacing ‘resist any attempts to pave or build upon any part of our existing parks or to reduce them in any way’ with ‘plan for the provision of open space must be weighed against the needs and benefits of the area or town’.

What followed was almost an hour of political theatre ranging in tone from Shakespearean tragedy to Monty Python sketch as both sides put forth their arguments for their version of the proposition.

Cllr Kilsby refused to accept the amendment as it had just been ‘bounced’ upon them while Labour Cllr Barry Richards, who represents Ruscote, tried to have the amendment thrown out completely.

At one point it became unclear if the chamber were debating the amendment, the amended proposition, an addendum to the amendment or something altogether separate.

The amendment produced a 10/10 voting split with Mayor Colin Clarke casting the deciding vote in favour.

Derek Evans, sitting in the public gallery requested to ask a question about the Easington Rec debacle but was denied. Unperturbed he lambasted the Mayor for his ‘undemocratic’ handling and promptly left.

A cross party agreement was finally reached with Cllr Richards adding an addendum to the now amended resolution that any planning application ‘would lead to no overall reduction in green space’.

Labour councillors agreed that ‘this resolution was better than no resolution’.