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Extra meeting announced after Dundonald Primary School consultation 'scandal'

Wimbledon Guardian: Denied: Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond was not allowed in the meeting at Dundonald Primary School Denied: Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond was not allowed in the meeting at Dundonald Primary School

Another meeting will be held to discuss controversial proposals to expand Dundonald Primary School, after more than 100 people - including the MP - were shut out from the last one.

Councillor Peter Walker, Merton Council's cabinet member for education, said a new meeting would be held on Wednesday, June 22, at St Andrew's Church in Herbert Road, Wimbledon.

Coun Walker said the residents who were turned away from last week's packed public meeting at the school would be guaranteed access to next week's meeting if they had written their names down on a form given out that evening.

He said: "We have got 105 names and contact details for those who were not able to come in. We will contact them and reserve seats for them.

"It will be the same format as before and led by the same independent chairman as the previous meeting."

The meeting on Wednesday, June 8, descended into farce after more than a 100 residents were denied entry. Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond branded the consultation a "scandal" after he said he was refused entry because there was no room inside.

Sandy Adamson, a retired civil servant brought in as an independent chairman by Merton Council’s director of education, Yvette Stanley, banned the Wimbledon Guardian from taking photos and recordings and threatened to shut down the meeting.

In February, Eric Pickles MP, secretary of state for local government, issued guidance that councils should allow public meetings to be recorded by journalists or members of the public as part of greater transparency of local decision-making.

Mr Pickles said: "Opening the door to new media costs nothing and will help improve public scrutiny. The greater powers and freedoms that we are giving local councils must be accompanied by stronger local accountability.

"We are in the digital age and this analogue interpretation of the press access rules is holding back a new wave of local scrutiny, accountability and armchair auditors."

But Merton Council's chief executive, Ged Curran, said: “Filming of public council meetings is permitted with prior agreement from the chair of the meeting.

"If there is any objection from residents at the meeting about being filmed or recorded, as there were at the Dundonald School consultation meeting last week, we would respect their wishes and take a decision not to allow video or audio recording.”

Mr Hammond said he would write to the council to complain about the handling of the process, in which residents are being consulted by the council about redeveloping the pavilion in Dundonald Recreation Ground so that the school can eventually double in size.

Campaign group, Save Dundonald Rec, has argued the expansion could break a legal covenant which prevents further development on Dundonald Recreation Ground, has obtained over 1,000 signatures from residents and parents who are against the council’s plans.


Readers' reactions to the meeting last week

Michael Denton, Kingswood Road (via email):
"It is simply not right and undemocratic that Merton Council are not able to organise a proper meeting to allow the local residents to express their views when 150 people were refused entry into this meeting on Wednesday 8 June.
"Why could they not transfer the meeting to larger premises and reschedule when they realised there was such a large attendance?
"To refuse entry to our local MP, Stephen Hammond, is incredibly wrong and fails in giving this meeting any credibility!"


Jackie Schneider (via Twitter):
“Staff felt intimidated by your filming last night. I feel sorry for staff at Dundonald who have been caught up in political storm not of their making.
"Obviously they are professionals and don't allow it to affect them but the uncertainty has a profound effect on parents who look to school.
"Pros and cons of debate moved way beyond what is best for kids.”


Richard Wilson (via Twitter):
“What's great about your vid is that it really crystallises an attitude among these people that seems to be dangerously endemic.
"You can really feel their outrage at the very idea of the public actually seeing what they're doing in a way that they are unable to control and edit.
"I'm curious about whether they actually had a legal right to stop you?


Andy Ray, via email:
First, the "independent" chair was simply out of order to stop you (as a neutral and trusted reporter of our whole community) from taking photos or recording!
"But I gather the Save Dundonald Rec lobby specifically asked for an "independent" chair, but why, why??? I'd have opted for our senior Councillor Chris Edge to chair it : he's not only very balanced but very competent too as chair (as previous ward meetings have shown).
"Second, though the Save Dundonald Rec lobby raised quite a few genuine points that would concern me as a local resident and regular user of the Park, the disinformation they spread (like the Rose Garden being bricked-up, whereas in fact it will remain untouched) unnecessarily whipped up hostile anti-Council emotions that might in the end leave our community too unproductively divided to put all our hearts and head together to find an optimum solution."


A.J. Chambers, via email:
"The StoptheWrecking Campaign or whatever its called, put up a decent, rational fight, but as the Prophet Blair has demonstrated, no one got rich defending principles.
"The scum Tories shot themselves in the foot by bringing up the free schools (private schools on the cheap) and that Dundonald governor who was undecided on something but couldn't seem to make up his mind on what, only further helped our cause.
"So what if 1500 people signed a petition and hundreds clamoured to get in to voice their opposition to the expansion plan?
"As Peter said in the meeting, he'd rather listen to the two people who emailed him: why should you listen to a group of predominantly middle class people (excepting councillors and council officials, of course)?"

What do you think? Leave a comment below, call 020 8722 6335 or email: ooakes@london.newsquest.co.uk.

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