The Foundation have written to local councillors (Robin Brown and Julia Neden-Watts), calling for them to intervene to prevent the secret deal to sell Udney Park being completed behind closed doors at the LBRUT offices at York House. A copy of this letter is as below -
Julia and Robin
Sorry to pester you again, but there has been radio silence from councillors and I view this as a critical moment in the destiny of Udney park.
My understanding is that councillors set the strategic direction and agree the policy framework of the council; officers are responsible for delivering the council's policies and for the day-to-day operation of the organisation
How is Paul Chadwick therefore being allowed to divert so radically from the Liberal Democrat strategic direction for Udney Park that was clearly set out in the Liberal Democrat election manifesto?
How is a deal being allowed to be hatched behind closed doors to the exclusion any input from elected councillors and the Foundation? No wonder people feel disenfranchised from the democratic process.
Why were the Foundation told that no development would be tolerated, and yet a private entity that is non-ACV qualifying is apparently being told the exact opposite?
Had the Foundation been allowed to explore the possibility of a small development to a corner of the fields a deal could have been done a year ago. I specifically asked about building on the car park in order to get to a palatable figure that Quantum/ AHH would accept. The answer from council officials was a very clear ‘NO development whatsoever’. I have detailed contemporary notes of my meeting with Simon Graham-Smith and Robert Angus of the LBRUT planning department so I know exactly what was said at the time.
Clearly the Foundation has been deprived of an opportunity that has now been granted to A N Other. Why have A N Other been given preferential treatment, particularly when the Foundation has more or less universal community support?
I believe that the conduct of council officers in this matter needs to be explained. There is a consequential loss to the Foundation and the various clubs that had hoped to use these fields so I do not take the matter lightly. The council are culpable for this loss so should tread carefully. Are the council going to provide alternative playing fields for the various sports clubs to alleviate this loss?
I would appreciate some sort of comment or explanation. Have you corrected Paul Chadwick on diverting from the policies and strategic direction of elected councillors. He may feel that by copying you in on his response to the Foundations letter, he has your tacit approval to the path that he is following!
Hopefully I will hear back soon.
My preference is that a meeting will be arranged between the Foundation, Mr Chadwick and our local MP, Munira Wilson, so that things can be resolved across a table without escalating this via acrimonious correspondence. Paul Chadwick is being copied in to provide transparency and the opportunity to deal with me directly on this.
This communication has been followed up by a further request that the radio silence from councillors ends.
'Julia and Robin
By way of follow-up to my email last night – and as further evidence of the changed position of council officers
The attached is a helpful letter written by Paul Chadwick year ago – he could not be more clear about the prospects of development on the Udney Park Playing Fields. To avoid confusion Paul Chadwick’s letter is misdated as 19th July 2020 whereas it was in fact sent on 19th July 2021.
At any stage in the last 12 months has Paul Chadwick informed elected councillors that the position on planning at Udney Park was to be changed? He certainly has not said anything to the Foundation.
I also met Simon Graham-Smith and Robert Angus at 3pm on 27th July 2021 and they confirmed all of Paul’s points. As a result in August 2021 I put in a bid exclusive of any development potential and based on only playing field value. I had previously carried out a development proposal limited to the area of the car park which was shared with Quantum/ AHH. Had this proposal been viable I would have got to the £2.5 to £3m mooted as an acceptable figure by Quantum/ AHH. I have written evidence by way of letters to Quantum/ AHH that evidence that I acted on specific council advice.
More recently Robin, you gave me absolutely no encouragement that anything had changed when Bob Bessel came up with a proposal for a limited build to less than acre in the corner of the fields adjacent to Fullerton Court. As a direct result I wrote to Quantum/ AHH and confirmed that Bob Bessel’s bid had no prospect of success and did not have my support. Without this advice Bob Bessel’s bid would be at a Pre-App stage with the prospect that 95% of the fields would be owned by the Foundation for community benefit.
If the council position has changed then what is the basis for this? Also why was my Charity not provided with an equal opportunity to consider this changed position and come up with our own proposal? Can I have an explanation of the preferential treatment being given to A N Other? If there is to be a preferred bidder it should be the Foundation as the only entity which is AVC-qualified and fully funded.
I continue to copy in Paul Chadwick in order that he has every opportunity to explain himself.’
The local demand for meaningful action continues to gather momentum. The Hampton Wick Residents Association became the latest group to write in support over the last few days. Their Chair, Mark Merrington, wrote -
‘If you need any further endorsement from a local community group you have it. I have discussed with the Hampton Wick Association's Committee and we would like to wholeheartedly join in supporting this excellent endeavour. It really is important to the community - both immediate and wider - that this vital amenity is preserved for future generations.’
Whether these demands translate in to action by councillors or council officers remains to be seen. As and when I hear back from the councillors or indeed officers, then this will be immediately published on this website. Everyone’s support has been massively appreciated by the Foundation’s trustees.