Can I reply to Andrew Marshall’s opinion piece last week by providing the facts with regards to the Portas funding of signage on Berwick Station?
In that article, Mr Marshall paints a picture of NCC/Arch deliberately dismantling the Portas Town Team in order to siphon money into “pre-identified projects of the Tourism Forum”. This is not the case. The following email sent on September 5 confirms that a proper process was conducted between the Tourism Forum, chaired by Sue Finch, and Portas Town Team. This occurred a full month before the Arch/NCC email exchanges cited by Mr Marshall and the alleged allocation of Portas funds by Arch/NCC “to...pre-identified projects”.
“Following your presentation to Michael (Richardson) and I during which you answered all our questions I can report on progress as follows.
“The Town Team has held a board meeting and fully backed your Signage Project.
“We have now indicated to John Lord that we have fully backed this project and are happy to provide the full funding. In this case, John has undertaken to deal directly with you regarding the transfer of Portas Funds so as this project can be expedited quickly.
“Chris Hardie, Director, Berwick Town Team Ltd”
The presentation referred to was made by myself to the Portas team at a Tourism Forum meeting on August 30.
Portas funding approval for signage at Berwick railway station was addressed to myself as the proposer of the project and Sue Finch as the Chair of the Forum.
The Tourism Forum is a consortium of voluntary organisations, local businesses, town councillors and public sector/NGO officers, drawn by Berwick Town Council to focus on attracting more visitors. It acts as a forum “for harnessing the energy and enthusiasm of local people” (a Portas objective).. The group is focused on getting things done to benefit Berwick’s visitor economy.
The purpose of signage at the station is to promote Berwick as a centre for access to important attractions, increasing economic activity.
The Portas request for funding was documented and the business case was attached to the email from the Portas team that approved the funding.
Talk is cheap - achieving practical results more hard won. I believe playing politics is exactly that – playing.
I believe gnawing on the bones of conspiracy theories is unproductive.
Mr Marshall should retract his allegations of Portas funding malpractice, and leave people who believe in getting things done for Berwick to get on with the job.