RELATIONS became even more frosty this week between Straford Town Trust and campaigners fighting to protect Rowley Fields.
Protestors say they were left to demonstrate outside in the cold at a public meeting organised by the Trust at Stratford ArtsHouse on Tuesday (February 3), over its controversial plans to sell off land bordering the Welcombe Hills for housing.
Richard Vos, spokesman for campaign group Rowley Fields Forever, told The Observer: “The only reason we were demonstrating outside – in the freezing cold – was that the Trust refused to let us have a table in the hall to put our side of the argument.
“Talking to residents visiting the exhibition we were surprised by the large number of people against the project, who told us that the Trust should be protecting this wonderful area on the edge of town and not promoting another housing estate.”
But Trust chief executive Helen Munro defended the stance.
She said: “This was a town trust event, an opportunity for us to explain more about the trust and what we do, for our Trustees to talk to the community and for conceptual proposals for Rowley Fields to be shown.
“We welcomed in all those who came to the ArtsHouse – including the small group of protestors – and were happy to answer their questions.
“It would not have been appropriate to allocate an outside party a space within our own event so they could speak against proposals they had not yet viewed.”
And Trust chairman Alan Haigh threw down the gauntlet to the Rowley Fields objectors – calling on them to come up with an alternative means of generating £250,000 each and every year.
That say the Trust is the annual figure the sale of a portion of Rowley Fields could generate for its charitable purposes.
The Trust plans to sell the 7.8 acre site, and an additional 1.48 acres with outline planning permission in place, raising several million pounds.
Chartered accountant Mr Haigh said the money would be re-invested – as per the Trust’s legal obligation – and ploughed back into the community.
He added: “There are thousands in Stratford who need our support – can the objectors to development at Rowley Fields come up with another way of us generating £250,000 each year, and that is whilst retaining a majority of Rowley Fields as unspoilt greenbelt which they will still be able to use?”
Over 300 people left feedback at Tuesday’s meeting, and the Trust will be looking to submit an application for outline planning permission in April, following a second public meeting, also at the ArtsHouse on Monday March 9, between 3pm and 8pm.
Chairman Alan Haigh, chief executive Helen Munro (CEO) and grants manager Claire Bowry (Grants manager) look over the proposals. (s)