Friends of St Mary’s Lands group in Warwick removed from Working Party

St Mary's Lands gv.
St Mary's Lands gv.
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A community group who have been involved in a working party for the development of land in Warwick have been temporarily removed from the working party.

Today (Wednesday) Warwick District Council announced that the Friends of St Mary’s Lands (FoSML) will, temporarily, no longer be represented on the St Mary’s Lands Working Party.

The Working Party was established to deliver the Masterplan for St Mary’s Lands.

It is made up of representatives from a number of local user groups to ensure that their needs are considered when developing the proposals.

Other Members include the Corps of Drums, the Golf Centre, Hill Close Gardens, the Jockey Club (Warwick Racecourse), Racing Club Warwick Football Club, the Warwick Society, a local nature organisation, Model Flying Club as well as local councillors on Town, District and County Councils.

The Masterplan proposals for the development of St Mary’s Lands were approved by Warwick District Council’s full council in August 2017.

The plan will see improvements to the landscape, enhancement to the frontage of Hill Close Gardens, a cycle link from Hampton Road to Saltisford Brook, improvements to pedestrian access, footpaths and parking, a new play area adjacent to the Forbes estate and modifications to the toilet facilities at the Golf Club and Racing Club Warwick to allow for public access. A new entrance to the racecourse is also a major part of the project.

The council said the removal of the FoSML came after the group refused to tell the them and the other parties on the Working Party, who forms its Committee membership and who its Chair is.

The FoSML has insisted it remain confidential.

The council’s request was in response to a ‘disparaging circular’ from FoSML which questioned the integrity of various members of the Working Party.

Councillor Noel Butler, who is an Executive member of the District Council and a member of the St Mary’s Lands Working Party, said: “There are a lot of conflicting demands and needs in the St Mary’s Lands area.

“The Working Party was set up to try to help resolve these conflicting issues and find a way to agree an overall vision and a plan of action to improve this historic open space.

“Over the last two years it has been very successful and it is down to the willingness of all participants to listen to and respect others and so find appropriate compromises.

“I don’t expect the FoSML to agree with everything the Council or other bodies on the Working Party propose.

“However, up to now they have been listened to on several aspects, such as the precise route of the proposed cycleway which has been amended as they suggested and on the issue of using part of the area for temporary parking which the Council has now dropped.

“This is a tribute to the former Chair of FoSML Nigel Hamilton and his co-representative Anthony Butcher who did a fine job in representing the views of local people in a constructive way.

“Sadly, they are no longer on the Working Party or as far as we are aware no longer part of FoSML.

“Communication and respect between the members of the Working Party is essential as questions arise and ideas are discussed.

“That has become a problem with the FoSML now only speaking via one new person and we do not know if that voice is truly representative.

“Recently a communication was circulated publicly by that person questioning the integrity of various members of the Working Party.

“The Council wanted to know if this circular represented the views of the FoSML and to discuss with its Chair the problems it has caused as respect for others is a key consideration for the success of the Working Party and the attitude and actions of the FoSML are undermining that at present.

“I have sought to have a wider discussion with FoSML but to no avail.

“It is disappointing therefore to have to resort to their temporary removal from the Working Party, but we cannot be open and democratic if the FoSML doesn’t appear to care for, or respect that process or the other representatives on the Working Party.

“A community group cannot reasonably argue the community’s case if the community doesn’t actually know who is speaking on their behalf and therefore able to hold them to account.

“However, I would like the FoSML to be an active and positive member of the Working Group and the invitation to re-join remains on the table should the FoSML change its stance by agreeing to be open about its Committee membership and by apologising for its recent circular.

“In the meantime, this will not affect the great work in progress to implement the Masterplan for St Mary’s Lands.”

A spokesperson from the Friends of St Mary’s Lands said: “The Friends of St Mary’s Lands knew nothing about this and cannot comment until we have heard from Warwick District Council.”

Go to warwickdc.gov.uk for more details of the St Mary’s Lands Masterplan and the work in progress.