|View across Mapledurham Playing Fields|
from the Pavilion
At last night's "The Heights Free School Sub-Committee" meeting a decision was taken to investigate further the
EFA’s proposal to purchase a leasehold interest of a small portion of
Mapledurham Playing Fields (MPF) on which to build a permanent home for The Heights
meeting was recorded on RBC’s webcast and can be viewed here.
Over 30 questions from the public had been tabled but there was only time for 11 of
these to be put to the committee within the allotted half hour time slot. Residents used their democratic right to grill
the new chair, Cllr Debs Edwards, on many aspects of the proposal and how her
committee was going to conduct itself. Cllr
Edwards answered the questions, sometimes deferring to the legal advice provided by Chris
Brooks, RBC’s Head of Legal, sat next to her.
after the public questions, Mr Brooks was invited to provide the committee with
his legal advice on the report. He stated that this was the start of a statutory process and that at each stage a report would be brought back to the Sub-Committee and the common thread that will run through the decisions is that the Sub-Committee must act in the best interests of the charity. Mr Brooks clarified the reason why the Sub-Committee could contemplate
a proposal, which on the face of it to "perplexed" objectors challenged the Trust, by explaining:
“there is a
possibility that the outcome of this proposal may well be in the best interests
of the beneficiaries of the charity [see * below]. By
that I mean that the facilities that are to be provided, the money which would
allow improvement for example of the recreation ground, those are matters that
the councillors have to consider and do so with an open mind. And the advice that I have received and I’ve
given myself is:- to arbitrarily reject the proposal without considering it fully
would actually be not acting in the best interests: But that might actually seem
perverse to some people, but nevertheless that is the position that myself and
my expert legal advisers have advised the Sub Committee.”
followed [at about 32 minutes in] with
five minutes “in favour” of the EFA’s proposal split between Dan Pagella (a
Trustee of The Heights) and Kerry Parr (a parent of The Heights); five minutes “against”
from Martin Brommell (chair of the MPF Action Group) and finally a speech from
me on behalf of Mapledurham Ward residents and Users of MPF.
|Copy of my speech to the Sub-Committee|
A synopsis of
which is: I declared that the majority of my community is supportive of The
Heights going on a small part of MPF; that the MPF Action Group campaigned unsuccessfully
against my re-election because I refused to join their fight against the school
going on MPF; that MPF Action Group represents only a small minority of the
community (otherwise I would not have been re-elected because of remaining
open-minded about the EFA’s proposal’s potential benefits to the MPF Trust). On behalf of Mapledurham Ward residents and
MPF users I asked the Sub-Committee to acknowledge the need to bring back the
Pavilion’s facilities as soon as is possible; and to please support the popular
view as well as the legal advice of Chris Brooks, that the best interests of the
Charity would be met by considering the EFA’s proposal in more detail.
then asked questions of Mr Brooks and put their views to Cllr Edwards [at about 37 minutes in]. This enabled Mr Brooks to inform the
committee of the answer to one of the unasked questions (tabled by Robin
Bentham, WADRA’s chairman) which essentially asked whether the listing as an Asset
of Community Value of the Pavilion together with its entrance and car park could
prevent the EFA from buying a landlocked part of MPF. Mr Brooks informed the committee that this
would not impact on the future use of the land as a Free School.
finished with a recorded vote, with all members deciding to support the EFA’s proposal
being further investigated.
* Since posting the above account I was contacted by Mr Brooks. Having considered his statement (quoted above) he has informed me that he should have been more specific and not added the reference to the beneficiaries. I am happy to clarify the legal point at his request that the Trustees act in the best interests of the Charity.