As a result of the continued lack of action by Sandwell council to take action regarding environmental issues at this supposedly “green flag” park, I have now made a formal complaint to this authority regards misleading statements of intent made by officers as well as the cabinet member Bill Gavan in the press.
I share the frustration of the RSPCA officers who have had to attend this park on multiple occasions, to do the council’s dirty work for them, and for also having to put up with their gross fucking ignorance.
As a professional organisation you would expect better from a local council, but we are of course talking about the rotten borough of Sandwell here, where metaphorically like the collapsed vent at this pool causing the potential issues, all manner of professional courtesy and honour are already sunk down the well of opprobrium.
I also have yet to hear from Keep Britain Tidy as to how in the hell this park was able to receive one of their “green flag” awards.
Here is the letter sent to the council.
Reference complaint Victoria Park Smethwick- groundcare and environmental issues and related wildfowl deaths.
I wish to raise a formal complaint about the condition of this park pool and the related wildfowl deaths that have been occurring since the summer, which appear to be continuing as a result of lack of action taken by officers to deal with longstanding known issues, namely the collapsed vent underneath the pool which means that it cannot retain water.
In July public concern was first raised in an article published the following month in The Express and Star about dead birds on the lake, and that they had not been removed by the council, thus potentially propagating disease in the water.
I have had numerous discussions and correspondence in my role as swanwatch coordinator with officers, also involving the cabinet member Cllr Gavan and also the RSPCA who have been out tirelessly rescuing birds and retrieving dead ones for the council.
I have reported this matter to the wildlife investigation scheme, not least because of the appalling manner in which two of the council’s environmental health officers were putting down rat poison in poorly secured bait boxes attached only with cable ties. Some of these were visibly open. Regardless of what has caused the deaths of birds on the lake, Natural England may well want to take this matter further with Sandwell council and I will be assisting them with all the evidence that I have.
My complaint stems from the misinformation that officers have given me, as well as statements made to the RSPCA as well as in the press by Cllr Gavan on behalf of the council that action would be taken. NO ACTION HAS BEEN FORTHCOMING IN FIXING THE DAMAGED POOL. This means that any potential pathogens in the pool are still there. The officers also claimed that aeration equipment would be added and that quotes had been sought. This was in September, and still nothing has been done.
I have informed Keep Britain Tidy about the disgusting state of this pool and syringes/ drug misuse etc surrounding it. It defies belief that this pool received a green flag when it was visibly in this condition and that birds continue to die as a result of council inertia and lack of care.
My correspondence with officers, which evidences their delay in taking any action can be read below. This is already in the public domain, and I will also be putting this complaint letter in the public domain as well.
Contacted Max Cookson, “waste and transportation manager” SMBC copying in cabinet members Cllr Bill Gavan and Cllr Dave Hossell.
Reference made to conversation with MC a few weeks earlier following publication in Express and Star of multiple bird deaths at this site. At meeting with Max Cookson I had asked who had collected the dead birds and where they had been taken ? He had said that he would contact me with this information but hadn’t done so. I query a number of issues surrounding the litter in the pool and also the fact that SMBC are aware that the pool cannot retain water due to the collapsed and unrepaired drainage channel underneath the pool. N.B The picture of a Severn Trent water van in this park is noted, but what were they doing there? Is there no link to anything going on or may have transpired in the pool?
Reply from Max Cookson stating that he would supply me the information in the next week or so and also claiming that the council were looking at aerating the pool. He had copied in to this council officers Matt Darby, Jo Miskin and Darren Jones.
Reply from Cllr Gavan acknowledging the email and also asking the above named officers whether it would be possible to clear up the litter around the edge of the pool? (Sent from his I phone.) N.B this being one month since the dead mallard had been submitted to the AHPA and longer still from the claimed deaths of dead birds weeks earlier that had been “left rotting” by the council in the lake.
I Emailed Max cookson also copying in Cllr Gavan and other officers that he had previously tasked with clearing the litter. I pointed out that no action at all had been taken and that I had also not been contacted by Max Cookson or anyone else as had he had stated would happen in his email of 21/8 . N.B Three weeks had gone by without reply. I also had at this point obtained the “post mortem” of the single bird that they had sent for post mortem myself via an foi request, also without having been informed by MC as to whom he had contacted at DEFRA.
A forwarded email from John R satchwell sent to myself and for some reason him copying in chief executive Jan Britton and someone called Alan Caddick (no idea). Many claims made in the email but no detail as to when the council would be taking action, and largely telling me what I already knew and had found out myself via the freedom of information request. I am certain that he did not compose this email himself, and the fact that it was a forwarded email would appear to confirm this.
On 8th October, I visited Victoria Park and was horrified to see a dead swan carcass on the pool, as well as a dead goose on the island and at least two dead mallards in the water. Another mallard was visibly sick on the water. I am aware that the swan had not been at the site on my previous visit of 4th October. A passer by reported that it had been alive the day before on the water. More dead birds and sick ones have since been recorded.
I hope that this matter will be looked at swiftly, and that action will be taken without any further delay to prevent more deaths of birds.