Friends of St Mary’s Lands group in Warwick respond to removal from Working Party

St Mary's Lands gv.
St Mary's Lands gv.
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A community group, which was removed from a working party about lands in Warwick, has now had their say.

Last week Warwick District Council announced that the Friends of St Mary’s Lands (FoSML) had been temporarily removed from the Working Party for St Mary’s Lands.

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 plan will see improvements such as a cycle link from Hampton Road to Saltisford Brook, improvements to footpaths and parking and a new entrance for the Racecourse.

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. There were also issues with a ‘disparaging circular’ from FoSML which questioned the integrity of various members of the Working Party.

Linda Bromley, on behalf of the Friends of St Mary’s Lands committee, said: “The Committee of the Friends of St Mary’s Lands and its members were incredulous at the decision to remove our representation on the St Mary’s Lands Working Party and we have asked Cllr Butler (Cons) for a full explanation for his decision.

“One of our committee members had spoken to Cllr Butler twice regarding his apparent perceived concerns about our committee and Cllr Butler promised to return his calls.

“He failed to do so and the Council’s Press Release was issued before we had an opportunity to respond to his statement.

“What purpose would it serve for our committee members’ names to be made public and why are the Council so determined to know?

“Our committee was legitimately elected at its AGM last July by a vote from the floor following the resignations of the previous Working Party representatives, Secretary Nigel Hamilton (who moved to Birmingham over two years ago) and Anthony Butcher.

“The new committee elected a new Secretary to represent the Friends at the Working Party Meetings.

“Since then we have been reflecting our 200+ members’ opposition to a hotel, additional parking on St Mary’s Lands, changes to the proposed cycle route and the name change.

“Recently we have also opposed the erection of fencing and hedging around the area which severely restricts free and open access to residents and visitors.

“St Mary’s Lands have always been held in deep affection by generation after generation of Warwick families who have regularly visited the area for recreation and especially dog walking.

“Now walkers are shepherded through a gate where the frequent pedestrian traffic has made the boggy area inaccessible.

“We do support the majority of the proposals but do not agree with Warwick District Council on the latter proposals. Is this why we are being excluded and the voice of Warwick residents to be unheard during discussions on the future of St Mary’s Lands?

“In our opinion, this decision by Cllr Butler is divisive and extremely heavy-handed and we are not prepared to be bullied into capitulation or compromise on the clear mandate we have from our members.

“We ask Cllr Butler to reinstate our representation to the Working Party in the interests of the Public Consultation it is purported to be and in the interests of the community of Warwick.”