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Councillors squabble over Brentwood's parks

September 30, 2008 1:02 PM
By Brentwood Gazette reporter in Brentwood Gazette

POLITICAL squabbling filled the council chamber as town leaders clashed over decisions on the borough's parks.

Brentwood Tories were accused this week of politically hijacking a parks group supposed to give residents a greater say on what should happen to green spaces.

A partnership of Brentwood Borough and Essex County councils is set to take joint control of open spaces in a bid to hand back more power to the town.

Lib Dem councillor Karen Chilvers suggested at a leisure meeting last week that a "friends of" group be created to join the panel of four councillors.

Although the idea was accepted, council leader Brandon Lewis proposed that the group comprise 10 residents, three Conservative councillors, one Lib Dem and one Labour - a motion passed by the policy board committee.

Cllr Chilvers said at the meeting: "I just think that is too politically loaded.

"A lot of people have contacted me saying they want to be involved, but not in a political group. I am very disappointed.

"It should be one from each political party or not at all."

The four-member parks panel will have two county councillors and Cllrs Joan Holmes and Michael Golding.

The three Conservative councillors sitting on the friends group will be Cllrs Holmes, Golding and Jean McGinley.

Cllr Lewis said the group set-up would be reviewed at the annual council meeting, but parties also clashed over the decision on who to appoint to the partnership.

Lib Dem leader Cllr David Kendall said Cllr Chilvers would be best placed. "In terms of knowledge, expertise and understanding, there is no other member who has got that," he said.

Cllr Chilvers was heavily involved in the Save Thorndon Country Park group which campaigned against the Go Ape climbing centre which was later turned down after intense opposition.

But Conservative councillor Phil Baker said: "All of us have an understanding of the park." He had been approached by many people who said it was a shame Go Ape had not been give the go-ahead.