CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed a move to set up a working group to investigate the long-term future of Manor Road Nursery.
A proposed business case was due to be heard behind closed doors during Friday’s council meeting but the matter be heard in public.
The matter was debated and a proposal to set up the working group was approved – with 24 members voting in favour compared with 20 against.
Dorothy Russell, the chairman of the Friends of Manor Road Nursery group, said she was pleased with the result. She said: “The facts and figures and horticultural details will come out. I would like to be involved but I don’t know how it is going to be set up – I will be there if I can be.”
Cllr Steve Bairstow, who was one of two councillors who originally called the matter in to be further investigated, said he was also pleased with the move to follow the scrutiny committee’s recommendation to set up the working group.
He added: “It was borough councillors acting on behalf of the people and not scoring political points. People were working together. I think it is a good decision and it has shown that democracy does work.”
Cllr Peter Popple, who was the other councillor to call the matter in, said: “I did move that we do not exclude the public as I believe this issue should not be heard behind closed doors. This council talks a lot about transparency but to my mind certainly don’t seem to practise it.”
He added that he felt that last week’s Cabinet vote had ignored the scrutiny committee’s recommendations and was “disgraceful, undemocratic and arrogant”.
He said: “I was very pleased that we managed to overturn their decision with the help of councillors from all sides of the council having a recorded vote.
“To lose Manor Road Nursery with all the experience and expertise, dismantle the greenhouses and lose all the valuable community and educational uses is nothing short of vandalism. Now we are having a working group to look into the issue I hope we can keep such a valuable asset.”
Cllr Janet Jefferson said that she had been involved with the council’s Parks and Countryside department for the past 12 years and added: “I am delighted that a task group is going to look at a business plan for the possible retention of Manor Road Nurseries.”
And Cllr Amanda Robinson told her fellow councillors at Friday’s meeting that a recent corporate peer challenge had identified the importance of the council’s overview and scrutiny function.
She added: “In the case of Manor Road, the Cabinet chose to completely ignore the recommendations of overview and scrutiny. The Cabinet should not pick and choose which recommendations it accepts and which it ignores.”