Lib Dem Councillor hits back at Tory inconsistency

December 22, 2020 5:23 PM
By Peter Dobbs
Rob Archer (Peter Dobbs)

Cllr Rob Archer

Open letter to Ashbourne residents;

I write to respond to comments made about me by Town Cllrs following a recent meeting in which the issue of the Black's Head was discussed. During the meeting Cllr Ann Smith stated that she was 'disgruntled' with my contribution to the DDDC debate about the future of the head and claimed that while the other 3 Ashbourne District Cllrs had represented the people of Ashbourne in the debate she was not sure who I was representing.
I was trying to represent the views of Ashbourne Town Council as set out in the statement that they issued to the District Council before the meeting. Their statement recognised that we needed to find a '21st century' solution to the issue of the head which they stated was 'imagery from a different time and with connotations from a very different time'. Their statement also referred to the likelihood of the head being stored separately from the gallows. In addition to this clear indication of the stance of the Town Council, it was very clear that the District Council would not consider allowing the head to go back on the gallows, the Conservative leader of the District Council (Cllr Purdy) made this very clear in the meeting when he said that he believed 'there would be a riot' if the head was returned to the gallows. The Town Council statement also requested that they should become the 'custodians' of the head while the District Council should retain responsibility for renovation work etc. Finally, they stated that they believed that the people of Ashbourne should be consulted.
The proposal that I put forward to the District Council and that was eventually approved with the support of all 4 Ashbourne District Cllrs matched with the main points of the Town Council statement. (the head be returned to Ashbourne where it belongs, Ashbourne Town Council become custodians and decide where the head should be stored other than the gallows, public consultation to be included in this process, DDDC retain ownership and therefore cover the cost of renovation etc). I was therefore doing my best to represent the views of the people of Ashbourne as indicated by the Town Council statement. I had made Cllr Smith (and the other Ashbourne District Cllrs) aware of my intended proposal in an email sent on 25th November and asked for their input to try and produce a proposal that was formally supported by Ashbourne Town and District Cllrs but I did not receive a response so I had to proceed independently. The fact that all 3 of the other Ashbourne District Cllrs (all Conservatives) voted in favour of the proposal would appear to me to be a clear indication that there was broad support for this solution.

So I am unclear why Cllr Smith stated that the other Cllrs represented Ashbourne by voting for my proposal but I didn't although I proposed it!

Readers may wish to make up their own mind by watching the meeting for themselves - the 14th December DDDC meeting is available on Youtube here watch from about 2hr 18 mins.

The full text of the statement made by Ashbourne Town Council is as follows;

Ashbourne Town Council considered the Black's Head at the full council meeting on 17th November 2020.

Members have confirmed that they would like to enter into a discussion with a view to becoming custodians of the head and the gallows. We would also like to positively engage with DDDC on the following items:

The current condition of both the head and the gallows and the potential need for restoration work to be carried out before ATC become custodians; the opportunity for DDDC to contribute to the restorative measures of the artefact and the longer-term liabilities for their protection and conservation. Taking into account that the gallows and head may well be in separate locations we are keen to ensure that both assets which are listed monuments are given the protection required.

As well as discussing the artefacts, we would also seek to explore with the District Council a suitable final location for the head which takes into regard its significant historical references, the wishes of the Ashbourne people, the opinions of whom could be garnered through a public consultation, whilst balancing the issues that this imagery is from another time and its connotations are from a very very different time.

I am confident that ATC and DDDC can work together to produce a solution which is appropriate for the 21st Century.

ATC would prefer to see DDDC progress with option E.