Monday 16 August 2010

Wanstead Flats - A Message For Recent Police Visitors To This Blog

This evening, a small group from the Save Wanstead Flats campaign attended the meeting arranged by a PR company for the Met police and the City Corporation to sell their plans for the Flats - and after listening politely to the police presentation and delivering invitations to a proper consultation event in October, they promptly left.

Having attended myself, albeit briefly, I was fascinated to now hear that some fairly senior police officers concerned with Olympic security have been occasionally checking this blog for the latest on the campaign against their plans for Wanstead Flats. So welcome - and let me give you some feedback about tonight. I've been doing this stuff for years, so you never know, it may be helpful.

To begin with, the initial sales pitch for the select few who you invited didn't really add that much to what we already know - most of it is already on the website you have set up to market the proposal for a police 'briefing and mustering centre' on the Flats in 2012. You really needed to come prepared with rather more than a PowerPoint presentation and the hope that everyone would be impressed by it, especially with an issue as controversial as this. You certainly needed to be ready to answer some fairly searching questions.

The impression given at the start, however, that there were many areas you couldn't respond to, but that you would listen and take people's concerns back, fell rather flat for two reasons. Firstly, when it became clear that most of the people attending this evening were opposed to your plans, the hasty suggestion that tonight's gathering was actually separate from the consultation itself, and merely intended to gather people's views to influence it, was terribly unconvincing - after all, the deadline you have chosen for 'consultation' is 26 September, less than six weeks away. Either tonight was part of the consultation, as the invite claimed, or it wasn't. Secondly, this looked far too much like orchestrated stage management that had gone horribly wrong, precisely because you had tried to hand pick who would allowed to provide an opinion - only 'one or two representatives' of organisations were invited, not the wider public.

As for the PowerPoint slides and the questions they raised that you could answer, the claim that you have searched exhaustively for different sites was treated with suspicion because we know there are other possibilities - the charity I work for, for example, has a large brownfield site in East Ham but has never been approached. Worse was the argument that other suitable venues had been bagged already by others for Olympic activities - alongside an insistence that nothing was more important than Olympic security. That simply didn't add up.

Overall, even Newham council's Adults, Culture and Community department could have come across better than this - and believe me, that really is saying something! Perhaps things improved a little after I left, I can't be sure. But luckily, you have been gifted an opportunity to redeem yourselves and to make sure a far larger number of local people can have their say.

Tonight, both the Met police and the City of London Corporation were hand-delivered an invitation to an open public meeting organised by residents themselves. You'll obviously need to extend the insufficiently inclusive deadline for your consultation, as the proposed date for this public meeting is 6 October at 7pm ar Durning Hall Community Centre in Forest Gate, but its only an extra week. We hope you will be able to attend, as the meeting will go ahead without you if you can't and that really, really wouldn't look good.

And by then, you need to make sure you are fully briefed. We expect a couple of hundred people in attendance, many of whom are very knowledgeable about the Flats, its history and its current use, the traffic conditions around it and the legal implications of your proposals (the Save Wanstead Flats campaign has been offered support from some excellent planning lawyers too).

All this may seem like far harder work than the tick-box exercise you might have been hoping for, but then real consultation usually is. And real consultation never starts with an assumption that proposals have already been set in stone.

So please reply positively to the address on the letter (Save Wanstead Flats, c/o Community Involvement Unit, Durning Hall Community Centre, Earlham Grove, London E7 9AB). We look forward to seeing both the police and the Corporation on 6 October.


Anonymous said...

Well if the Police are reading your blog. Here are my thoughts.

Why does n't the police use the undeveloped land in Royal Docks (Newham) or the site opposite London City Airport?.

Londonders pay £7m to police the London City Airport.

Now if they police put their olympic-HQ opposite London City Airport, then we could kill two birds with one stone. We would need fewer policemen for the airprot, since will be so many in the area. In turn the freed up policemen can do the real job of catching crooks.

BTW who is paying for the Olympic policing??

Kevin said...

All good points.

BTW who is paying for the Olympic policing??

I think it's fair to say that we all are! It comes out of the 9.3bn allocated for the Olympics and a sizable chunk of that is taxpayers money.

rooftopjaxx said...

BTW who is paying for the Olympic policing??

The next question needs to be, and how much will it all cost? A quick google of 'vancouver olympics security costs' would suggest the final bill we bear will vastly exceed any stated estimates!

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