Dave Lee of the Olympic Borough website has an interesting exclusive showing that the Metropolitan Police has so far spent over £50,000 to publicise its proposals for an operations base on Wanstead Flats in 2012.
But what is really interesting about the information that he has dug up is not so much the amount of money, although it is significant - it's the police's unguarded admission that its so-called 'consultation' has had nothing to do with listening to local people and has been primarily about preparing a favourable case for planning officers in Redbridge council.
The Met's response to Dave's Freedom of Information request confirms that its spending has gone to a public relations company called London Communications Agency (LCA) for the following:
Yes, you read that last sentence correctly - LCA's role has been the 'collation of comments from the public to support the planning application'. Not to actually listen, but to gather whatever favourable information it could in preparation for the next stage.
“Drafting, production and distribution of material for the consultation – exhibition panels, flyers, letters to local residents and user groups, preparation of presentations to stakeholders and arranging the logistics for five public exhibitions and a meeting with local user groups. They also drafted and sourced material for the consultation website www.wanstead.mbdc.co.uk and are responsible for responding to any questions raised and collation of comments from the public to support the planning application to Redbridge Council.”
The public relations experts at LCA were also expected to find ways to brush objections aside. That much isn't a great surprise. But anyone who decided to leave comments on the £4000 'consultation' website now knows for certain that they will have been completely ignored unless their views happen to be helpful in convincing Redbridge council to grant planning permission.
I've been saying for months that the police consultation is a sham and those organising it haven't the first idea what proper engagement with local communities even means. Now the Met have admitted as much, I'm really looking forward to their more indepth explanation tomorrow.