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Slots in the middle room have caused controversy (photo: Bernard McGinley).

Slots in the middle room of the Deck building on the pier have caused controversy, though some commenters don’t think they should have (photo: Bernard McGinley).

Slot machines on the pier: answering some of the critics

Bernard McGinley’s recent piece about slot machines on the pier has provoked a lot of response, especially on HOT’s Facebook page, much of it critical. Editorial organiser Nick Terdre takes up some of the questions raised.

Typical of the criticisms levelled at Bernard’s article was one particular FB post, so if I address the questions raised in it, that will also cover the same points raised by others. The quotes from the post are highlighted in bold, but the writer has asked for their name to be withheld.

The slot machines are in the right place, so the headline [Slots where slots shouldn’t be] is misleading. There are some amusement machines that are in the entrance, which McGinley is objecting to…

McGinley states very clearly that there has been a breach. This has caused out[r]age. Has there actually been a breach? Do you know?

“The slot machines are in the right place” – really? The article wastes no time in providing information on where the slots should be, by means of an extract from the committee report – the report prepared by planning officers for the planning committee in support of their recommendation that the application be approved – explaining precisely where the slot machines are permitted to be placed:

There will be no alterations to the internal layout or external appearance of the building. The store rooms, WC, kiosk and service lift will all remain in situ, and only the educational and interpretation spaces at either end of the building will change to an amusement arcades/entertainment centre.

In other words, the spaces at either end of the building are approved for housing the slot machines, but not the middle section where the store rooms, WC, kiosk and service lift are located.

At no point did McGinley express that any of the content of this article is purely his opinion. It’s essentially a personal rant.  Is it newsworthy? Not without hard facts it’s not. 

The article reports the facts of the planning permission – what is allowed and where – and shows with the support of photos that slots have been placed in the middle section which the planning permission excludes from being part of the amusement arcades/entertainment centre.

Far from being a rant or a personal opinion, these are hard facts. Newsworthy? We have a system of rules and regulations to govern planning matters, to which all are supposed to be equally subject. So if someone decides for whatever reason to ignore the terms of their planning permission, yes, that’s newsworthy (although some infractions would be too minor to be worth reporting).

McGinley was strongly opposed to the change of use. He wrote an objection, which one can read within the planning application documents. So this demonstrates prejudice, and gives grounds for intent to publish so called facts, in order to create bad feeling within the community. Is that responsible reporting? Is that ethical?

According to the editorial standards we follow you’re allowed to have your own opinion on a matter and write about it – as long as you treat the matter fairly and allow the parties written about to have their say.

The Oxford Lexicon dictionary defines prejudice as “Preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.” So if the argument is based on facts, as this article is, that is not prejudice but argued criticism.

If McGinley had asked pier management, and the council to comment, the article would have been more balanced. But he didn’t.

The article was primarily aimed at the council, which for some time now has been aware of breaches of planning permission by the pier owner, as well as the irregular mounting of signage and other equipment without the required listed building consent – it was raising the question whether the council would take steps to have matters rectified or decline to take up the issue.

There are unfortunately too many instances in which the council, and the Foreshore Trust which it controls, appear to have neglected their responsibility for policing the planning system – events at Rocklands caravan park and the Flamingo amusement park are leading examples.

In fact Bernard did ask the council to comment on the matter and this should have been mentioned in the article. It took a while, including some irrelevant responses, to get a reply addressing the question asked. This is what the council said (now published as part of a comment which Bernard has attached to the article):

“We are in the process of collating all the current breaches of planning
control and will shortly be writing a further letter to the owner
setting out the various ways they should rectify those breaches.

“The letter will give a deadline for the breaches of planning control to
be addressed. If after the deadlines have passed the requested actions
have not been undertaken by the owner of the Pier we will progress
with enforcement action, where appropriate.”

The council says there have been breaches and that it is following up on them. That hopefully puts an end to claims that there haven’t been breaches. Whether effective and proportionate enforcement action is taken remains to be seen – however Bernard reports that in the last couple of days the council has informed him that the letter has been sent and received.

Mr Gulzar and his representatives were not consulted – they probably should have been, though the article as said was intended to be focusing on the council’s response. For a follow-up article which is due to be published shortly, Bernard has spoken to Mr Gulzar’s agent.

There are others who clearly think that putting the slots where they aren’t supposed to be, and ignoring the procedures for obtaining listed building consent, are trivial matters. Their argument is not with HOT but with the planning system and the philosophy behind it – they might want to campaign to have the system reformed so it is possible to have some planning conditions defined as “too trivial to be enforced in case of breach.”

If there hasn’t been a breach, and Mr Gulzar is fully compliant, will HOT write a retraction and a formal apology? 

HOT has a policy of acknowledging mistakes and correcting them. So if we’d been shown to have erroneously accused Mr Gulzar of a breach of planning permission, we’d be happy to recognise that and apologise.

We’re also happy to have differing points of view on our pages. The writer of the FB post was asked if they wanted to write their own take on this matter but declined. If someone else wants to, they should get in touch.

Other critical points were raised in comments posted both on our FB page and on the HOT page which I plan to respond to.

 

This article was amended by Nick Terdre on 7 August 2019.

 

Posted 12:20 Tuesday, Aug 6, 2019 In: Home Ground

5 Comments

  1. Bernard McGinley

    It’s news to me that I showed bias because I objected to some Pier applications. So did many other people. Objection and bias are different, just as opinion and fact are different, and my article was supported with plenty of detail. The unbiased complainer asks for ‘hard facts’ ⁠— but it’s not an opinion that the Pier was closing at 5 p.m. in high summer, or about what Council advice was, or conditions for planning approval, or what the acting Chair and the Principal Planner said at the March planning committee meeting. (For what it’s worth, I was there.)

    I suggested that there are clear planning abuses happening on the Pier, and the Council have acknowledged that there are. So we agree. (Thanks HBC.) Despite the alleged ‘little love lost’, is that bias too? Are we both biased?

    The suggestion that this was a ‘personal rant’ makes no sense. Look to the evidence.

    Comment by Bernard McGinley — Thursday, Aug 8, 2019 @ 15:49

  2. Ms.Doubtfire

    The Hottie is coming under undue and unfair criticism here. Nick Terdre has correctly answered the points raised and it is absolutely clear that planning consents have not been adhered to. The Hottie has always been very fair allowing all points of view to be discussed. The complainant to the article needs to understand that the installation of these gaming machines received a great many objections from local residents and it adds insult to injury to see the owner of the pier flouting planning legislation by installing these unwelcome machines in additional areas for which he has not received planning approval.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Wednesday, Aug 7, 2019 @ 20:07

  3. Emma ridout

    This is a message for Nick Terdre. I sent you a private message explaining my concerns about articles like this. The pier is a highly emotive subject, and it has devided opinions.

    My questions were to you to try to gain a better understanding about what motivates HOT articles. One could argue McGinley’s article was contentious. I pointed out he showed bias because there is little love lost between him and the council, and he strongly objected to the change of use of the pier visitor centre.

    I made it very clear that I didn’t want to write an article. I was only interested in a response to my questions. Most of which you’ve ignored. You have just cherry picked the questions you’ve published. Which is interesting in itself.

    You didn’t tell me that you were going to publish this, or ask me if I’d like to comment. I wrote to you over 3 weeks ago. You were on holiday, and I’ve been patiently waiting for your response. And here it is. Not a respectful response via email, as I expected. But a full public one online. Thanks for that!

    Should we all be concerned that this is how HOT answers readers questions about their articles?

    Comment by Emma ridout — Wednesday, Aug 7, 2019 @ 14:22

  4. Bolshie

    I need to support what Mrs Doubtfire has pointed out how Bernard’s article has not been understood correctly. While we have parted a friendship over council issues a while back, I must say and support that whatever Bernard writes is of paramount accuracy and always carefully researched. Therefore the idea he might has got his facts incorrect or miss read the planning application is so highly unlikely. He is not the one to put himself in the line of fire for libel.
    Remarks about feedback from the council and the Sheik. Well for the latter many of us who are familiar with HBC will know they are often very slow at furnishing comments. And of course where we have something as controversial as this, lets face it, neither are going to be rushing to provide comments.
    As for the public alone getting replies from either council officials or councillors is a real hit and miss.
    As I said when the article first appeared, it was excellent and informative

    Comment by Bolshie — Wednesday, Aug 7, 2019 @ 13:23

  5. Ms.Doubtfire

    Clearly [the writer of this FB post] has not properly read or digested the content of the planning permissions/officers reports relating to these slot machines.
    As reported by Bernard McGinley all the diagrams and reports state that these machines are to be housed only in the two rooms at each end of the building…no consent was given to house these machines in the centre of the building.
    There has indeed been a breach of planning consent and to suggest otherwise is ridiculous. Does [the writer] discount the very clear and precise wording of the planning officers report which stated that “the store rooms, WC, Kiosk and /service Lift will all remain in situ and ONLY the educational and interpretation spaces at either end of the building will change to an amusement/entertainment centre”.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Tuesday, Aug 6, 2019 @ 13:34

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