Railings Camden’s poor decision process – response to delayed documentation

In the ongoing saga of Camden’s process and decisions on the removal of the internal railings on the Fields the Chair of the Friends of Lincoln’s Inn Fields  (FLIF) writes back to the Council after the delayed receipt of crucial documents.

26th September 2011

I have now received some of the material for which I asked many weeks ago. I preface my comments by observing that, despite the areas of disagreement, Friends of Lincoln’s Inn Fields welcome much of the work which is to be done in partnership with English Heritage.

First: I note that the letter accompanying it is dated some days before it was posted. I am informed that despite assurances given this week to local councillors that you would suspend removal of the railings until FLIF had had a chance to consider this material you have continued to remove the railings.

Second: The material (which is said to be the whole of the correspondence with English Heritage ‘EH’) does not confirm your claim that EH would have been unwilling to make a contribution to the funding of the scheme if the railings were retained. There is nothing in the standard terms grant agreement to suggest that the railings were, for EH, a deal breaker, as you have claimed.

Third: I must reiterate that the problem with the removal of the railings is that, whatever their appearance, they perform important functions which I do not think you have appreciated

It is surprising that the ‘survey’ came out with answers so different from those at the EH consultation exercise and the Neighbourhood Forum last summer, and views so different from those consistently expressed to us by local residents and regular users.

The material relating to the ‘survey’ is suspicious It does not describe the methodology. It does not state when the ‘survey’ was carried out. It does not state who carried it out, or how people were chosen to respond. It does not say what was said to those who were carrying out the survey. Above all the survey forms do not explain the functions which so many people consider the fencing to perform. It is therefore at best of extremely limited value. Fully informed responses are what was needed.

Fifth: I am disappointed that you do not propose to adopt Councillor Fulbrook’s suggestion of planting a hedge to reduce the problem which will be caused by the difference between desire lines and paths

Sixth: As a public spirited body of volunteers we remain as always happy to cooperate with you. We can readily deal with disagreement—but time is wasted and unnecessary tension is created by misleading statements and unwillingness on your part to cooperate with us (for example in formulating the methodology for the survey) and consult effectively. We have been disappointed by the way which you have handled this issue

Seventh: I would like, however, to end on a note of agreement and to place on record our pleasure at the last walkaround with Shaun Kidell that he told us that there was no intention to remove the large stands of low greenery which provide in the centre of the fields a sense of visual and functional separation. These areas of greenery are important in enabling people to have relief from the oppressive sense of built form in such a densely developed area with its shortage of open space.

Robert McCracken QC

Chair, Friends of Lincoln’s Inn Fields


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