Pompey vs Northampton as it happened 29/12/13

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with apologies to John Bonham, Charlie Watts, Nick Mason, Karl Burns, Joe Morello, Ginger Baker, Janet Weiss, Keith Moon, Gene Krupa, and even Phil Collins.

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Fratton Park atmosphere debate – a guest blog from Claire Perry

A first for this blog, a guest piece.  I’m delighted to host this contribution to the ongoing debate about the atmosphere at Fratton Park from Claire Perry, @princessclairin on Twitter.

Thank you to Stuart for letting me guest on this blog. There has long been an argument regarding the lack of noise in Fratton Park that it’s the ‘women and children whatdunnit’ (otherwise known as the ‘Westwood argument’). As a woman, and previously, a child, I’d like to challenge that and make a few points.

First, if you’ll indulge me, a little history. I didn’t go to Fratton Park as a child – because I was female. My granddad, dad, and brother went, my mum went shopping and I was left with grandma. Come 5pm, us ‘ladies’ would be gathered around the telly waiting to adjust our faces into the correct expression to what the teleprinter told us, before the men came through the door. It was the 70s, it was usually patient sympathy.

My breakthrough came with what was long a family secret –we only told my mum on my dad’s 70th. He had clearly been told to look after me, but Pompey had a home game to confirm their entry from div 4 to 3 in 1980. It was a night game, my dad had a season ticket in in the South Stand. He obviously had to stay home to watch me.

He took me to the game, sent me into the ‘old’ Fratton End and told me to meet him after in Frogmore Road. I was 11.  I wandered into the Fratton End, somehow found some of my brother’s friends, and had one of the best nights I could ever remember. There was a pitch invasion, I lost a shoe, I remember a police woman telling me I was too young to be there but me telling her I had to find my shoe first (I did, it was in the sand by the dugout). I met my dad outside afterwards, and we exchanged ‘a look’ – don’t tell yer mother. I didn’t, til 2009 (sorry dad).

The only song I remember not joining in with was the one about going somewhere ‘with my willy hanging out’, cos I knew I didn’t have one.

From then on, my football depended on many things – at times I travelled hours for a game (and back); at others, football was not the most important thing. In the interim, I was a sports reporter, covering Wycombe Wanderers and (briefly) Watford. But in 1997, I moved back ‘home’ – and football was way up the list of the reasons why. I’ve been on the Fratton End ever since.

Fast forward to now, and I see many using the ‘women and children’ argument – many who I have a lot of time and respect for. There are more women in the Fratton End – the toilet queue at half time shows that – but every single one I know is vocal, supportive, and up and down off their seats throughout the game. If you ever hear someone screaming ‘SHORT CORNERS NEVER WORK’, that’ll be me. And our attempt to get ‘John Utaka Football Genius’ going, which failed, is a constant regret.

To me, there are two reasons why Fratton Park seems quieter – firstly, because it has always been so. The biggest accessory we appear to have is blue-tinted specs – if you honestly think we sang all the time, every time, at home, you are mistaken – we didn’t, we don’t. Why has the Stockport game gone down in history? Because we sang all the way through – when we don’t normally.

We go quiet when it’s tense, we go quiet when we are shit, but we would rather not boo. We honestly always have since the Fratton End was rebuilt. We ARE very good at boosting our team at times others don’t, but really, we do go quiet sometimes.  Every game has nuances and I just want to watch and study what is going on.

Skip back 30 years and maybe we did sing more – there were fewer outlets to vent frustration in those days, no computer games etc. And yes, there were terraces and it was the game of the working classes. But if I had time on my hands, I’d love to trawl back through old Sports Mails – I bet there were letters then moaning about the atmosphere and how it wasn’t like that in the ‘50s/’60s etc.

Class was mentioned on Twitter and I would certainly agree that in the Premiership years, pricing took the game away from the poorly-paid/unemployed. The pricing policy this season to me has been fair and as a community club I know people will continue to push for, and get, better deals for the less well-off fan. Pricing and football is an argument others have covered well and is not the point here.

I mentioned two reasons and the second is this.  Many on the Fratton End – of all genders and ages – simply aren’t prepared to sing the same old crap anymore. I don’t care about Southampton (except when we are playing them), I want to sing pro-Pompey songs. I’m not going to join in songs about Defoe and Redknapp – I couldn’t give a shit about them anymore – yesterday’s news (and possibly slanderous). On a personal level, I’m not going to join in on songs about sheepshaggers either, being half Welsh. When we played Brighton in the Cup a few years ago my brother got me a ticket in the home end. When the inevitable ‘holding hands’ songs started, people around me sighed saying ‘Blimey, 13 minutes, took them a bit longer than normal then?’ They hear it every game and that joke is old and tired. By all means you sing if you want, I won’t tell you what to do, but don’t moan when increasingly fewer people join in.

Maybe that’s the point? Our songs are old and tired, there’s too much drumming with no nuances and WAY too much ‘ner-ner-ner-ing’. Take the Liverpool Torres song we took the tune of – I know it as ‘the animals came in two by two’. Their version had lyrics:

“His armband proved he was a red -Torres, Torres

You’ll never walk alone it said -Torres, Torres

We bought the lad from sunny Spain

He gets the ball he scores again

Fer-nan-do Torres, Liverpool’s number nine.”

Ours doesn’t. Why shouldn’t it? I have to admit I found the idea of the song-writing evening a bit naff, but applauded the sentiment. Another reason could be that we haven’t held onto players long enough to give them a song and that IS changing (I particularly love Patrick Agyemang’s). Now all we need is for them to be good enough to DESERVE a song.

And that’s the real reason. Its not women, children, or class, there’s just only so much singing we can do and get no return. For five years we have hurtled down the leagues, we’ve seen far more losses at FP than wins, we ship goals like its Christmas every day. Frankly, there’s been nothing to sing about. We sing in true adversity – every relegation has been faced with songs and humour which have made me proud to be Pompey, and when the good times come again, so will the singing – every man, woman and child.

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“Save Shipbuilding” demo, 14th December

This is just a very quick follow-up to the march today from the Dockyard to the Guildhall, and the rally that followed it.

It was organised by the Unite union, and there were the usual Socialist Worker placards in evidence.  That’s fine with me, I think in these times of danger and peril, some of the usual parochial arguments can be set aside for a while.  Hell, I may well turn up in a paper somewhere waving a Unite flag, and I am certainly no admirer of Len McCluskey.  I’d rather wave a flag and make the demo look good for the cameras than argue over how many members of the Falkirk Labour Party can dance on the point of a pin.

But there was a strange incident as I walked up to the demo.  I thought I was late, as it had been advertised for an 11am start, and it was already 11.20 as I hurried up Kent St in Portsea.  Imagine my amazement to see Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson heading away from the demo, talking on his phone.

“It isn’t going to start until 12, I don’t want to hang about.  I’m going to go and do something else for half an hour”

This seemed an odd thing to do, after all, we’re all supposed to be uniting to fight the decision.  The big screen in Guildhall Square proclaims:

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But for some reason the leader of the council “didn’t want to hang around” and mix with the other demonstrators.  Now I’m not going to say I followed GVJ, because I wouldn’t want to get arrested for stalking a Lib Dem politician, but let’s just say I observed that it looked as if he popped home for a cup of tea.  It was just like “The Thick of It”.

After this bit of mild and fairly casual surveillance, I went on to the demo at the Victory Gate.  There was a decent crowd there shivering in a strong wind, and in due course we formed up to march behind banners, chanting slogans, waving flags, standard demo fare.  And as if by magic, Gerald Vernon-Jackson reappeared in his red anorak and took his place at the head of the march just as we moved off.  There were honks of support from car horns as we marched up Queen St.  We crossed Victoria Park and got into Guildhall Square where Unite had set up a stage and a PA.

The union reps gave the traditional speeches.  We heard about expressions of solidarity from workers in Glasgow (where there are jobs going too, remember) and Liverpool (where Cammell Laird survived at Birkenhead, but beat the odds to do it).  There were a couple of references to a “Tory-led coalition” which missed a bit of an open goal given that Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the 22nd most influential Lib Dem in the country, was in attendance.  Probably the best speech came from Lisa Fletcher, who reminded everyone of the impact the job losses would have across the whole local economy.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson spoke, and gave us his usual hand-wringing performance.  He said it was strategically stupid to close shipbuilding down until we know the outcome of the Scottish referendum, but that BAe and the government had made up their minds.  After he spoke, he stood forlornly on the edge of the crowd; none of his fellow Lib Dem councillors seemed to have turned up to support him, or the demo.

John Ferrett introduced himself as the Prospect representative, although of course he leads the Labour group on the City Council and is the prospective candidate for Portsmouth North.  It’s fair to say some people in the union movement think he’s a bit right-wing.  He was soon laying into the city’s two MPs, neither of whom was present, and GVJ for not using more of his famed influence with Nick Clegg to help get the policy overturned.

This sort of thing is fine up to a point.  Of course campaigners will welcome the support of the council and local politicians for Portsmouth Shipbuilding, which seeks to take over from BAe.  There is a whole market in civilian and export work which BAe has never made any effort to explore, either out of laziness or incompetence.

But none of the local politicians have challenged the defence policy or the spending priorities that led to this position.  We have a Navy that is too small, is going to get smaller, and we are going to carry on expanding the overseas aid budget while we cut defence spending.  This was reinforced yet again in the recent Autumn Statement from the government.  The position of all three major parties and their representatives in Portsmouth will remain totally unsatisfactory until they challenge this folly.  There would be enough naval work to keep Portsmouth and the Glasgow yards building for years to come if we had a balanced defence and foreign policy.

There has as yet been no proper response to the open letter from local leaders to David Cameron.  The response to the online petition to keep shipbuilding going has only had a brush-off reply from the MoD.  If you haven’t signed the petition yet, please do, it is still “live” and ideally it will reach the level required to make it eligible for debate in the Commons.

There are bound to be more demonstrations, and increasing pressure on politicians to make the sort of “defence of defence” that is required in this situation.  Certainly the idea of a “Portsmouth First” candidate in Portsmouth South to fight on the issue in 2015 hasn’t gone away, and if anything is gathering momentum in the discreet discussions going on between supporters of all the parties at the moment.

Regular readers will know I am a keen believer in using Freedom of Information legislation.  I made a request recently to the MoD about the biomass power station floated as an idea of for the Dockyard, on the grounds that the Dockyard electricity supply is going to be insufficient when the QE class carriers are in service.  MoD have confirmed to me that in fact they are upgrading the National Grid to supply the Dockyard, and there are no plans on their side, or indeed any requirement, for a biomass plant in the Dockyard.

Beyond that, I had a 5-inch-thick pile of double-sided printed material from MoD arrive a few days ago, which I am working through.  These are analyses of the upgrade plans for Portsmouth Dockyard over the next few years to cope with the QE class carriers and future repair work.  If I can find anything noteworthy in the pile, I will of course report on it here and on Twitter.

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Portsmouth City Council – some useful website links

A while ago, I tweeted some links to things on the City Council website which are useful for keeping track of what PCC are up to.  The Council do put a lot of very useful information online, but these days it’s not possible to rely on media outlets to do the sort of analysis of it we need.  Since those tweets, PCC have revamped their website and a number of the links are dead.  I’ll update this page periodically, I think there are still changes to be made that will need to be watched out for.

How does the City Council work?

Someone could write a book on this, never mind a blogpost.  This is a very simplistic and partial account, but it’s a start.  Portsmouth is divided into 14 wards, each having 3 Councillors.  We do not elect the whole Council in one go; each May, we elect a third of it (i.e. one Councillor in each ward).  Councillors serve four-year terms, so once every four years we run out of Councillors to elect, and we get a year off voting!

The Council is effectively run by a Cabinet and a Leader of the Council, broadly mirroring how things work at national level with the Cabinet and Prime Minister.  As the Lib Dems have a majority on the Council at present, they hold all the Cabinet positions.  Cabinet and its portfolio holders have wide powers delegated to them to take decisions and decide policy.  The full Council meets once a month, but its decision-making powers are fairly restricted, and real power resides with the Cabinet.  Opposition spokespeople attend Cabinet decision meetings but they have little power except to protest.

Planning and licensing (and some other regulatory) matters have a full committee set-up, consisting of members from all parties.  There are also “scrutiny” panels which are concerned more with the effectiveness or philosophy of decision-making, and also the Governance, Audit & Standards Committee.

Who are the Councillors?

They are the usual mix of people, some invisible until they want your vote, some don’t actually live in Portsmouth (despite the addresses they list on the PCC website), and some are perfectly sensible people.  You’ll have to figure who’s who in that sense for yourself for now, but details on all your Councillors are here.

“What’s On” at the City Council

PCC maintains a couple of calendars, one to track “key decisions”, and one tracking dates of meetings of the various committees, Cabinet portfolios, full council meetings, and so on.

A “key decision” is what it says on the tin, it will affect a key item of PCC policy, or involve a spending commitment of over £250k (or do both).  These decisions are previewed on the Forward Plan, which is updated regularly and looks forward three or four months at a time:

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In looking at it now, (though it’s not on the bit I’ve taken a screenshot of) I’ve just spotted that there is a report to the Cabinet due in January on the Palmerston Rd pedestrianisation fiasco.  There’s an update due too on the Council’s plan to consolidate the amount of space they use in the Civic Offices, and let some out commercially.  This is a very sound idea in principle, but one fraught with the potential to become another fiasco.

The monthly calendar of PCC meetings is here:

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It carries details of all the meetings of PCC bodies – full Council, committee meetings, Cabinet or Cabinet portfolio “decision meetings”, and so on.  Fairly self-explanatory, click through to any item and it will take you to the relevant agenda.

Agenda are generally available five working days ahead of the meeting, and you can view or download whatever reports or papers are going to be considered, and the minutes of the body’s previous meeting should be there too.

After the meeting has happened, PCC will also upload a written record of decisions taken at the meeting to the page (this is a new feature I think). An audio recording is made of many meetings, and it would be good to have these uploaded as a matter of course to the PCC website so that those of us who can’t get to a given meeting can catch up later.  The issue of recording of meetings and openness of process is a contentious one I’ll be coming back to soon in another blog.

Don’t ask me at this point how the “add meeting to your calendar using VCS format works”!  I’ll update this blog when I’ve figured it out.

Members’ Information Service

This is PCC’s “headline news” bulletin, aimed at Councillors, but freely available and updated every Friday.  It’s usually available after lunch and can be found by clicking on from the top level page here, and then on each month’s page is a link to the PDF of the specific bulletin.  MIS is split into three parts:

Part 1 lists decisions taken by Cabinet or individual Cabinet portfolio holders.

Part 2 lists proposals from Council officials, who have authority delegated to them to act on behalf of the Council.  These are by no means necessarily trivial!

Part 3 is “Information and News Items” and rounds up anything else going on, usually including a preview of the next week’s meetings and what the decisions to be taken are.  After the relevant meetings, these decisions will then be recorded in next week’s MIS, in Part 1.  Any other Council initiatives or things likely to go on in public in the next week will be listed in Part 3 too.

Also in MIS is the list of planning applications due to be determined by the Head of Planning each week.  We’ll come back to planning in a second.  It’s complicated.

If you want to keep an eye on what the Council are up to, MIS is absolutely the key document to read first.  You can drill down to the detail easily enough on most things afterwards, as long as you know your way around the Council website.

Planning

Planning matters are often contentious either locally, or on a city-wide basis, and the process is explained here.  On that page, it is explained that once they are received, applications and the paperwork relating to them are stored in the “PublicAccess” system.  On the PublicAccess homepage, you’ll see you are presented with a few options:

pub1If you register for the site, it opens up functionality such as being able to save and track specific applications to your profile and receive email updates on the progress of each application:

Pub2Every application gets a reference number like that in the left-hand column.  If you already know the reference number of an application you are interested in, you can straight away access all sorts of details about it, by putting the reference number in the “Simple Search” box.

If you know there is an application in for a site, but don’t know the reference number, there are a couple of ways of tracking it down.  You can use the Map function to zero in on the area, and it will show in the right hand column any relevant applications in that area.  It’s quite a clunky method, slow to respond, and I only use it as a last resort.

You can more easily search for a property if you know the postcode (fairly easy to find out from Google) or know a form of the address the system is likely to recognise.  You can enter that in the “Simple Search” box, or use more complex search terms in the “Advanced” search function.

For a general look through applications as they come in, use the “Weekly/Monthly Lists” option.  This allows you to browse through applications for whatever time period you select, and I usually do this once a week (at the same time that I read MIS usually).  You can select items directly from the lists for tracking if you’ve registered for the site.

If you already know what the reference number is you can enter it in the “Search” box on the main PublicAccess page and it will take you directly to the page with details of the application:

pub3So you have the summary of what the application is about, and tabs for Comments (either from members of the public, or the bodies who are statutorily consulted on planning matters), Constraints (e.g. whether the site is in a Conservation Area), Documents, Related Items, and Map.  The Documents tab will have in PDF format all the paperwork associated with the case – application forms, site plans, drawings, and so on:

Pub4Related Items will show any other applications or planning enforcements currently live for the property, and there will usually be a link to call up any historic applications for the property as well.  The Map tab is just that, but most applications will have a PDF map which is a lot less clunky with the application.  So once you’ve identified an application, it’s a piece of cake to see what it entails and where it is in the process.

Conclusion

This completes the update of the links I tweeted a while ago, and hopefully it allows you to get some insight into what business PCC has on.  While it is true that PCC operates in difficult financial circumstances, it is still true that Councillors and officials wield a lot of power in the community, and it’s in everyone’s interest to understand how they do that.  I’ll update this post as necessary, and there are still a few bits I’ll come back to in future in terms of openness and accountability.  These are two areas where at present PCC falls a long way short of the ideal!

Posted in Portsmouth City Council | Leave a comment

ARTches Project Granted Planning Permission

The ARTches project in Broad St, which I’ve blogged about in the past, was granted permission today by Portsmouth City Council.  The meeting raised a couple of interesting issues – such as why the “anti” petition wasn’t submitted to the council, and what the “other means” that opponents hope to pursue are.  I’ll come back to these in another blog.  In the meantime, I’ve written a quick report of the meeting which is up on About My Area.

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Fanschartergate

A huge and almost entirely pointless row has broken out about the draft of the draft Pompey Fans’ Charter which is circulating.  I am now going to devote another 1000 or so words to this pointless row myself, after the style of this.  What the internet does for public discourse!  I say “pointless”; some people have used it as an excuse to have a pop at Scott McLachlan, who helped write it, and who has gamely owned up to his role in it.  I feel a bit sorry for Scott, who is one of life’s “volunteers”, but who seems to get it in the neck occasionally.  The accusation made on some message boards that he’s trying to “impose his view” on fans is ludicrous, as you’ll see if you read on further.

Various disagreements that are of no interest to me and have nothing directly to do with the Charter are being played out through this.  But let’s consider the wording of the two drafts – they are drafts, people have lost sight of where this project is at – and try to be constructive.

“The Tony Goodall Fan’s Conference would like to use the message Nelson sent to the English Fleet at Trafalgar on the eve of that decisive battle to remind supporters that they represent our Club and our City.”

That’s fine except that (a) it was a message to exhort Jack Tar to kill as many Frenchmen and Spaniards as quickly and ruthlessly as possible and (b) “England expects” is a clonking great cliche.

“Pompey Expects….fans to respect everyone, including club employees, regardless of gender, age, religion, race or ability.”

“Sexual orientation” ought to be added to the list, other than that, who’d argue with it?  I think the “ability” bit is an attempt to counter discrimination against the disabled.  But it is likely to be misinterpreted as it stands to mean that we can’t attack incompetence; nobody who has ever blogged about Pompey is going to give up that right without a struggle.

“Pompey Expects….fans to avoid violent, disorderly or abusive conduct.”

Fair sentiment, but “England expects you to annihilate your enemies”, while “Pompey expects you to avoid…etc”. See what I mean about the contradiction?

“Pompey Expects….fans to avoid behaviour likely to bring dishonour to the name of our Club and our City”

You need to be able to define “dishonour” if you are going to have sanctions resulting from this charter.

“Pompey Expects… fans to avoid any behaviour likely to bring financial loss or fines to our Club”.

Fair enough.  I am sure a big part of the motivation for this has been idiots with flares recently and some of the stewarding issues at Brentford last season that led to the pitch incident.  Nobody can have a complaint about this bit, surely?

“Pompey Expects….positive support given to the team wherever possible”

Don’t agree with this bit – people pay their money and within reason they are entitled to voice their opinion.

The Tony Goodall Fan’s Conference accept that fans who engage in unacceptable conduct at home or away may be subject to any or a combination of the following sanctions:
 ● Removal from the stadium.
 ● Report to the police and possible criminal proceedings.
 ● Suspension from attending matches involving Portsmouth Football Club.
 ● Indefinite ban from watching matches involving Portsmouth Football Club.
 ● Football Banning Order.
 
Further information on the Club’s origins and Customer Charter can be found at http://www.portsmouthfc.co.uk

And the problem is you have sanctions there that are silly if they are related to the “Pompey expects positive support” point.  It doesn’t matter whether the Fans’ Conference accepts or rejects those bullet points, they are the law, so the view of the Conference or the Club is supremely irrelevant.  What many would question, and I am among them, is given that the law is already very clear, why is it so inconsistently applied at grounds all over the country?  There have been bad stewarding incidents at away grounds for years, and you have the running sore at Fratton of drums/no drums.  Some people have even complained about stewarding at Fratton recently.

The second draft of the charter is like this:

“Pompey Expects That Every Fan Will Do Their Duty.”
 
Portsmouth Football Club, founded in 1898, has a proud history. Pompey fans are a large part of that history, we are a family and a community. The club and its fans have always had a warrior spirit but also a sense of fairplay and honour.

Unless you are Southampton, or “United, West Ham and Millwall”.  Or Leicester.  Or….the list goes on.  By all means clap Thierry Henry when he puts our shirt on, or admit that Ronaldinho can play a bit, but let’s not pretend that you have to be particularly nice to your opponents to be good supporters.  We got our reputation because of the deafening racket we make supporting our team and intimidating the opposition, something we seem to have forgotten how to do.

“As part of that sense of fairplay and honour the Tony Goodall Fans’ Conference want to encourage Pompey fans to not tolerate unacceptable conduct at Fratton Park or at away matches.”

Wouldn’t argue with that as long as the definition of “unacceptable” is reasonable

“Borrowing from the message Nelson sent to the English Fleet at Trafalgar on the eve of the decisive battle the Tony Goodall Fans’ Conference would like to use this to remind supporters that they represent our club and our city.”

See above re. killing Frenchies.

“Pompey Expects….fans to avoid violent and disorderly conduct.”
“Pompey Expects….fans to respect everyone regardless of gender, age, religion, race or ability.”
“Pompey Expects….positive support given to the team wherever possible”
“Pompey Expects….appreciation of fair play and good play before, during and after the match.”

The last point isn’t in the other draft.  Please don’t ever expect me to appreciate anything from a long list of clubs, some of whom I have already mentioned.

“The Tony Goodall Fan’s Conference accept that fans who break ground regulations home or away will be subject to sanctions as long as they are fair and lawful.”

See above.  It’s doubtful whether many of the obstructions placed in the way of football supporters are fair, though they are lawful.

Further information on the Club’s origins and Customer Charter can be found at http://www.portsmouthfc.co.uk

I didn’t mention under the first draft, but the club has had a “Customer Charter” for a fair while now.  It is as bland as you might expect a document with that title to be, but there are some things it would be worth carrying over into a new document.

I don’t actually see very much in either draft that is newly-objectionable.  A lot of it is the sentiment in the “Ground Regulations” expressed in less formal language, so to that extent it already applies anyway (even though I detest a lot of the law and Police practice around football).

I think people are getting upset because:

– It has appeared as if by magic at a time when fans are a bit jumpy and are questioning the direction of the club.  It would have been better released once we’ve appointed the manager, or in a less-fevered atmosphere.

– We aren’t sure how exactly it’s come about.  It’s been discussed at some point at the Fans’ Conference, which many of us see as the “Magic Circle” of Pompey’s support.  Johnny Moore suggested a charter, but Colin Farmery points out that the club did not actually ask for a charter to be written.  Something has been written and got into the public domain saying “Fans’ Conference” on it, some members of the Conference have distanced themselves from it.  Everyone gets excited about it, but it’s only a draft.  All is confusion.  But even so it’s quite clearly something that the Club have been entertaining and the Fans’ Conference are looking at.

– There is nothing in the charter from the Club making any pledges to fans.  As it stands, it’s a fans’ “Code of conduct” imposing duties on fans, not a “Fans’ Charter” confirming our rights.  But it’s understandable, if the Club haven’t formally considered it, that there is nothing in the way of pledges from the Club.  I hope the Club will come up with some suggestions to go in the Charter as it develops, explaining what guarantees they will make to us.

– The language of the charter.  We are, often deliberately and bloody-mindedly, a bit blunt in this city.  Few things get our backs up more than feeling we are being patronised.  I don’t think it’s an image we play up to particularly, it is just “us” and people who come to live here from all over the place get used to it in time.  But the modern game is drowning in BS and we are wary of more of it.  Slick marketing has been used to obscure the theft of football from its rightful owners since the inception of the Premier League.  I think when the Charter is worked on more, it doesn’t need the “Pompey Expects” stuff.  But many of the things it prefixes are already perfectly sensible.

– There is a feeling that, although we already have those repressive Ground Regulations in place, some fans get away with things that lesser mortals would not.  Let’s enforce what we have before we start heaping more obligations on fans, or emphasising them by restating them in a Charter now.

I’ve got nothing against having a Charter.  I think some of the wording in these drafts is a bit misplaced, and we should have obligations balanced up with some commitments from the Club.  I remember Mike Hall in the old days complaining about the number of kit changes every year – how about something on that?  Or a pledge to publish stewarding reports after games (something that would shed light on some of the current complaints)?  There are bound to be other and better things that people can come up with to balance things up, and make a Charter that draws support from fans.

The big losers in this row are the Club and the Fans’ Conference, because it’s their fiasco.  I think as the relationship between the Trust and the Club defines itself, people are going to ask what the Conference is for exactly.  There has never been anything to stop the Club consulting with groups of people ad hoc, and the Trust can form groups to examine specific issues.  Where does the Fans’ Conference fit into the new reality?  The Conference is supposed to be the consultative body; it is a nonsense to have it putting drafts out for consultation itself instead of drafting something and have all members agree to sign up for it.  They are supposed to be representative (though I think that is questionable really).  If the Fans’ Conference can’t get its house in order, abolish it.

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South Parade Trust Launch Party 21/11/13

UPDATE 23/11/13: I had a wander down to the Pier earlier, it’s a gorgeous morning in Pompey and I had to ask myself “how much would the Pier take today if it was open and it had a cafe or a bar on it?”  It would be a licence to print money (which is just what the Pier needs if it is ever to be repaired and maintained).

There was no sign though of any notice carrying the enforcement notice ordering closure of the Pier – just some new portable fencing up outside the entrances, and a token effort down the side of the Pier on the beach:

South Parade Pier fencing

South Parade Pier fencing

You can click on any of these images for a full-size version.  This fencing isn’t going to stop anyone going under the Pier at anything except the highest spring tide, and the loose bits of concrete overhanging the beach are well out of shot further along the Pier (to the left as you look at this).

Under the Pier, you could see what passes for “repair work”, but in fact spraying concrete over the beams does no good.  It doesn’t protect them from corrosion, and it doesn’t have any structural value.  If anything, it puts more load on a structure that doesn’t need it:

Sprayed concrete

Sprayed concrete

More randomly-sprayed concrete

More randomly-sprayed concrete

Final photo in this update is another one of a leaking waste pipe.  This is a “new” leak, so it’s an example of why the Pier needs constant, almost loving, maintenance:

Leak!

Leak!

I didn’t expect PCC would be obliged to put up a copy of the enforcement notice anywhere near the Pier, so we’ll have to wait for the precise reasons given, and action required.  Blog as posted last night resumes below:

I wrote this blog at lunchtime today, to post tonight, reviewing the South Parade Trust launch party at the Royal Beach Hotel.  Then, at about 5.30, the news broke on the “About My Area” site that the City Council has finally served an enforcement notice on the Pier’s owners, ordering them to close the Pier under the provisions of the Building Act.  I haven’t seen a copy of the notice yet (but would love to) and it seems to have caught everyone by surprise.

Why PCC put out a release late on a Friday before disappearing for the weekend is beyond me.  It’s a bit like knocking someone’s front door, then legging it round the corner to hide. Even when PCC does something many of us have been urging them to do for a long time, they manage to do it in such a way that they get little credit for it.  Claire Upton-Brown of PCC seems to have been unaware that the Pier had reopened for boxing nights last month.  It is hardly a case of “stopping it reopening”.

It should never have taken this much urging by the South Parade Trust, or moaning by people like me, to get PCC to take this sort of action.  I’ll leave the rest of the blog as it stood before the news of the enforcement notice broke.

On Thursday night, the South Parade Trust held a gala evening to promote their efforts to buy and refurbish South Parade Pier.  Held at the Royal Beach Hotel, it was a great chance to hear more about the progress the Trust is making in its business plans and funding efforts.  Over the course of this year, the plight of the Pier has grown considerably in the public’s consciousness, and this was a great celebration of the effort so far.

Scott McLachlan was an adroit master of ceremonies for the evening, and he introduced Leon Reis.  Leon gave a speech comparing the potential for our Pier to the rebuilt Grand Pier at Weston Super Mare and Hastings Pier, both of which have suffered catastrophic fires in recent years but are now re-establishing themselves; Weston Pier has had great success since reopening.  South Parade Trust is able to call on the advice and expertise of all the people involved in restoring these two Piers, and there is every reason to expect that a restored South Parade Pier could surpass both in terms of visitor numbers and financial performance.  There is huge potential for a family entertainment venue at the Pier, and the rejuvenation of the Pier itself would be a powerful driver of regeneration elsewhere along our beleaguered seafront.

Some fencing has again been erected around the sides of the Pier, and there has apparently been a further visit by Planning Department staff concerned at the safety of some of the concrete work.  I lodged a Freedom of Information request some time ago to try to draw out the answers; on the last day before it became overdue I was surprised to get an email from PCC asking me to clarify some aspects of the request.  I’m not sure, given that they were fairly basic queries, why it took 19 working days to deliver this response, but having given the required clarification I hope things will now proceed with a bit more pace.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson gave a speech reaffirming the Council’s commitment to contribute £15k towards the £80k needed to complete a full structural survey, and praising the Trust for its efforts.  There is a limited amount PCC can do financially; it faces financial challenges over the next few years and cannot simply push money into buying or helping redevelop the Pier.  There are legal constraints on what PCC can do to intervene to help SPT take the Pier over.  What PCC can and should do, and some of us doubt it is doing, is ensuring that the laws relating to protection of a listed building and basic safety of the building when in use are adhered to.  It is that doubt that motivated me to make an FoI request in the first place and when I have the results I expect to have a fairly meaty blog to write in analysis of the documents.

Mark Catlin, the Chief Executive of Portsmouth FC, was a welcome guest, and he highlighted the similarities between the SPT bid for the Pier and the Pompey Supporters Trust bid for the football club.  Plenty of people doubted that the community would raise the funds to achieve a takeover and said it wouldn’t happen.  Anybody expressing similar doubts about the SPT bid is being over-sceptical.  Mark’s main point was that everyone has to stand together and present a united front.

Apart from the main speakers, it was good to see a strong turnout of various local politicians.  While it wasn’t a political event, it would be remiss of me not to comment on a couple of things I picked up in discussion with the delegation of Lib Dem councillors accompanying GVJ.  Cllr Sanders hopes to be reselected as Lib Dem candidate for Portsmouth North in 2015 (and with all due respect to my fellow Old Johannian and quiz team colleague, his opponents are hoping he’s reselected too).

There is as yet no news on the selection process for Portsmouth South, where things are still shrouded in mystery.  I did wonder if the basic criterion these days was the ability to pass a criminal records check, but it seems there may be more to it than I realised.

After the event, I joined in a Twitter discussion regarding the fate of Cllr Mike Hancock, who moonlights as part-time MP for Portsmouth South.  Hancock resigned the Lib Dem whip at Westminster some time ago to avoid dragging the party into the row over allegations of improper conduct against him.  However, he continues to take the Lib Dem whip at council level, which is ridiculous.  Either one is a Lib Dem, or one is not.  The Lib Dem President Tim Farron is normally a very garrulous tweeter, but on this he is hiding behind a kind of mock legalism.

It is not a matter for the courts whether Mike Hancock is a Lib Dem or not; it is a matter for Farron and Nick Clegg.  At local level, Cllr Vernon-Jackson continues to treat Cllr Hancock in a way that would arouse concern were an employee of the council to be left in post while these allegations are inquired into.

But back to the Pier.  The Trust had a great response when it took a stall at the revived Southsea Show and it was great last night to see pictures featuring the Pier that had been drawn by school children at the show and afterwards.  It’s a real shame that today’s kids don’t have the chance to enjoy the Pier and all the attractions in the way that I did when I was a kid in the 70s and 80s.  If the present owners can do what they always say they would like to do, and bring all of the Pier back into use, it would be a start.  At the moment they seem to be going backwards.

The bid to bring the Pier into the ownership of the South Parade Trust appeals to the sense of renaissance in Portsmouth that continues to swell despite the recent cretinous decision by Whitehall on shipbuilding.  There may be more repercussions of that decision in the future if the Coalition continues to slump into what looks like being a disastrous defence review in 2015.  It does look as if there is a future for shipbuilding in Portsmouth outside the dismal clutches of BAe and the MoD in the shape of Portsmouth Shipbuilding, and I wish them every success.  But the fundamental stupidity of our defence policy is not going to go away even if jobs are saved in the Dockyard.  There was a certain amount of “Portsmouth First” talk around the edges of the event last night.

The formalities ended with an excellent raffle before The Targets played out the evening and everyone left feeling it had been a real success.  Certainly the bitter cold hadn’t deterred people from venturing out to support saving the Pier.  Thanks again to the South Parade Trust!

Posted in Portsmouth City Council, South Parade Pier, Southsea | Leave a comment