Thursday, 12 August 2010

Wanstead Flats - Police Launch Media Offensive

In what seems like a direct response to the public meeting organised by Forest Gate residents in opposition to the proposed Olympics policing operational centre on Wanstead Flats (see here for previous posts), it appears that the Met Police, the Metropolitan Police Authority and the City of London Corporation have been forced to start undertaking some actual 'community engagement'.

A letter dated 6 August (although not actually posted until Monday this week) was sent to a number of local groups, including the Friends of Wanstead Park and the Save Wanstead Flats campaign. It explains that a firm of consultants called London Communications have been taken on to arrange meetings with the police and the Corporation and a company called Wagstaff Design has set up a swish new website (live from yesterday) to sell the case for using Wanstead Flats during 2012. This sudden media offensive rather puts the 180 quid raised at the local campaign's public meeting on 14 July to shame.

More alarmingly, the three public bodies have said that 'consultation' on their plans for the Flats will end on 26 September, with comments considered by Redbridge council later in the year. The first meeting arranged by London Communications doesn't take place until next Monday, 16 August, before four dates for a public exhibition planned to be held in Wanstead and Leytonstone (but not, I notice, Forest Gate).

Let's be clear - a six week consultation, half of which takes place during the peak holiday season, is not a proper consultation, it's a tick-box exercise.

The Save Wanstead Flats campaign is insisting that representatives of the police and the Corporation attend a public meeting arranged by local people themselves and on their own terms - in later September or early October, so there is sufficient time to make sure local communities around the Flats have been informed.

Consultation isn't something you do to people, it's something that means working with local people to understand their concerns. It's time the police, their supposed 'watchdog' the Metropolitan Police Authority and the Corporation started to understand this.

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