Wednesday 3 February 2016

Mapledurham Playing Fields: Should some residents be banned from observing meetings?

At the last meeting of the Mapledurham Playing Fields (MPF) Management committee on 19 January 2016 there was a debate over whether observers “who openly advocate breaking the Trust" should be allowed to attend. 

Reading Borough Council's minutes of this meeting have not yet been formally agreed by the committee, however when they are I will link to them here.

I argued that it would be undemocratic and discriminatory to introduce such a ban, not to mention impossible to manage, and I am pleased to report that my colleagues Cllrs Hopper and Skeats agreed with me.   The demand (I’d received several emails from the Users’ Group representative in advance of the meeting to introduce this ban) flew in the face of the transparency I have promoted since taking on the committee’s chairmanship.  The vote went 1:3 with Keith Knee-Robinson abstaining.  

Next I tabled a motion that any member of the public be allowed to observe these Management meetings so long as they give me, as chairman, written notice in advance (so I can ensure there is sufficient space) and observers do not disturb proceedings.  My motion was agreed 3 with 2 abstentions.

I am well aware that residents opposed to The Heights primary school going on part of MPF, because of the land having been left in Trust for the benefit of everyone living in Reading and the Parish of Mapledurham for recreation, have extremely strong views, which I respect.  However there is a democratic process by which this legal issue will be determined.

For the avoidance of doubt for readers generally, I am keeping an open view about the Education Funding Agency's anticipated proposal to build a permanent home for The Heights on part of MPF so that I can fully participate in the decision making process.  This will enable me to speak up on behalf of all residents in Mapledurham Ward having first fully assessed the pros and cons of the proposal, tempting though it might be to ignore the tiny minority who try to smear my reputation.  

Update on temporary accommodation for user groups:  All but one user group are back up and running having been displaced from the Pavilion whilst the building is shut for a detailed survey. I have been told that the user group still without accommodation should be restarting this coming week once the council has reopened a building at Caversham Court.