Deceitful Wandsworth Council used to misrepresent consultations

4 mins read

Author: Cyril Richert

York Road, Winstanley/Lachmere Ward, Battersea Park, Northcote Ward … what do they have in common? Each time Wandsworth Tory Council are bulldozing through their own plans, misrepresenting or ignoring consultation result and patronising the local population.

Winstanley&York Road redevelopment: consulted resident say they want less towers, a deaf Tory Council is pushing through a Canary Wharf type scheme

Local residents where consulted by Wandsworth Council in autumn 2013 on the future of the area near Clapham Junction station. The latest exhibition shows now the difference between what was presented to the local residents to get their vote in 2013, and what is now strongly suggested.

Current view from York Garden

According to the booklet produced by the project teams-open-day-exhibition-boards in 2013, the number one thing that residents wanted to change was: Improved homes with fewer towers

Winstanley and York Road open day exhibition board – 2013

Here is the response from the Council as presented in October 2017 on their exhibition boards at York Garden Library.

Exhibition October 2017: Board called “The Vision

Therefore, either the Council misunderstood the view expressed by the local residents, or as shown in the more recent consultations, they decided to bulldoze through their own vision, ignoring residents and misrepresenting the local opinion!

Battersea Park: The Tory Council runs its own consultation then ignores it when displeased by result

During Wandsworth full Council on Wednesday 9 December 2015 Cllr Osborn highlighted that “62% of residents said they were opposed to future Formula E races in the park” in response to a consultation organised by the Council on its own website. The Leader of the Council, Cllr Govindia responded with this  remark (1st question of this paper):

“Let’s be quite clear about the maths: 62% of the 1,366 respondents to the Council’s survey expressed this view – not 62% of residents. That equates to 847 people. As a percentage of the Borough’s population of around 310,000, that is 0.27%, somewhat distant from Councillor Osborn’s claim of 62%.”

Following this view might challenge the own purpose of consultation and democracy. Let’s be quite clear about the maths: Mr Govindia was elected as a Councillor last May 2014 by only 2134 voters, which mean “as a percentage of the Borough’s population of around 310,000, that is” 0.69%. Shall we say that the leader of Wandsworth Council is only approved by 0.69% of the Borough’s population?

Independent Cllr Cousins made a description of the preceding committee meeting granting the use of the Park for the Formula E event. A few parts are particularly worth mentioning:

“Imagine having organised the largest campaign in recent (and no-so-recent) memory in Wandsworth and, at the end, you attend the relevant council committee: the opportunity for you to have your say. You’ve filled the public gallery, the overspill room is standing room only and, for the first time ever, the public are filling the council chamber to listen to a council meeting. And after the first resident deputation what is the Tory approach? To accuse the organisers of lying and inflating their support. […]”

At the same meeting, campaigners reported that Tory Cllr. Torrington, a resident of Putney, declared that “parks are a luxury“. Similarly, Cllr. Cook made remarks in the press, implying that people living on the edge of the park were nimbies, and that they would not have objected had they lived in leafy Hampstead.

Ignored by a deaf Council, local residents needed to issue a Claim at Court and started a  Judicial Review procedure before a last minute agreement was reached with the event organisation. Wandsworth Council was forced to abide by the result.

Northcote Library: The Tory Council misrepresent of the consultation results

A similar contempt for a consultation result organised by the Council is shown in the recent proposal for Northcote Library. The presentation of the consultation results was totally biased in the Council’s report. It is worth quoting the figures laid out in the report (Committee report paper 17-286), page 7:

Support for the overall development:

  • Short form 298 responses: positive 71%, negative 17%, neutral 11%
  • Long form 496 responses: positive 36%, negative 50%, neutral 14%

and no less than 61% of respondents did not like the Chatham Hall development part of it, 58% against the provision of new flats and 70% opposed to impact on Alphabet Nursery.

The conclusion of this, from the Council prospective is… :

“These results demonstrated that there is support for a new library and community hall; […] The long form results do reveal a lower level of positive support but overall the negative responses do not outweigh the positive and neutral responses.”

Seriously? Most of the stats in the report (page 7-8) for the longer questionnaire come back as negative  (i.e. people did not want a large building development to happen here) or neutral, and yet the overall result has been illustrated by the Council that a majority support the proposed scheme. At the Shaftesbury Let’s Talk meeting on 9th October 2017, Cllr Cook (deputy leader) repeated the false statement that a large majority were in favour of the Council’s plans.

Despite a letter sent on March 3rd 2017 by Cllr Cook stating: “Whether or not this scheme proceeds will depend largely on the results of the public consultation“, the Conservative Councillors voted unanimously in favour of the plan supported by Cllr Dawson to destroy the current library and Chatham Hall.

More recently, Cllr Cook (again) spoke to the headmistress of Alphabet nursery (who will have to move following the likely redevelopment of Chatham Hall, Northcote Road). He mentioned York Gardens library (2 miles away/25 min bus ride) as a possible alternative site for the local premise. When she said this would be too far for local residents, he replied (perhaps a tribute to Norman Tebbit):

“What do these parents not travel by bus?”

Contempt and mockery from Wandsworth Council?

Back in 2014, when several community groups and amenity Societies launched a campaign to denounced procedures and ‘localism’ practice failures, a council spokesman (Cllr Cook maybe?) said:

“It is always regrettable that some people have a more NIMBYist approach and choose to hurl false and groundless allegations around when they don’t get their own way.”

Is dismissing consultation results, treating statutory instruments as guidelines, disregarding community groups and showing contempt to the local residents the norm for Wandsworth Council? You can make your own opinion, the comment box below is open.

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CJI editor and Clapham Junction Action Group co-founder and coordinator since 2008, Cyril has lived in Clapham Junction since 2001.
He is also funder and CEO of Habilis-Digital Ltd, a digital agency creating and managing websites and Internet solutions.