Posted by Glynis:
On Saturday I was helping to deliver a letter to residents of Coatham on behalf of Josie Crawford, our friend and fellow Lib Dem Councillor. Josie, like us, has had a dreadful time putting up with abuse from certain protestors who do not want a superb leisure and housing development at Coatham. Josie has suffered more than most because she lives close to the site and by helping deliver the letter I was showing my support for her.
These protesters have gone way beyond what is considered to be reasonable and have mounted a campaign of abuse, allegations and scare mongering against members and Council officials that has caused great distress and has wasted so much time. It has got to stop.
None of the allegations and the 1001 conspiracy theories have stood up to scrutiny. They have all proved to be exaggerated nonsense.
As soon as I started to deliver the letter in High Street West out came the lead protester who started bellowing at me in the street: "We don't want this through our letterboxes." "She's a liar." "Your husband's a liar." I simply carried on and ignored the man. They can give it out in spades but if anyone dares to answer back they can't take it.
I post Josie's letter below:
A personal message from Councillor Josie Crawford
Ward Councillor for Coatham
20th October 2006
Dear Coatham Resident.
I have lived in Coatham for 37 years and I have been privileged to serve as its Ward Councillor since 2003. Where I live, the people know me. They know how passionate I am about Coatham.
They, also, know I don’t lie and I am always open and honest about what’s on my mind. This is an open letter and personal message from me. It has not been instigated by anyone other than myself.
As your Ward Councillor, I have to represent the views of all local residents. I work very, very hard to get all of these views and concerns listened to in a constructive and influential way.
There are people who are worried about the proposed development at Coatham. They are worried about the housing, about the change and what might be lost.
As the proposal began to take shape, I openly shared my own views and my own concerns. I have, also, worked hard to fulfil my duties as a Councillor and put forward all views to represent all Coatham residents, and still continue to do so.
I could never have stopped the application from happening. The ball was set rolling long before I was elected, but, believe it or not, Coatham residents have actually influenced what has gone into the final application.
With your support, Irene Curr and I have fought for better pool facilities, the height of the flats on the front to be lowered, the retention of a dance floor, more seafront parking, better footpaths to the seafront and better viewpoints for the homes on High Street West. We were successful in achieving these.
I, have also, offered to meet Coatham Ward protesters to hear their views and concerns at a time and place convenient to them when there was still the opportunity to influence the planning process. My offer was ignored and I never received a reply.
Finally, I went to a massive effort to bring together a Council Scrutiny meeting to scrutinise openly the development proposals for Coatham. This was a crucial meeting that could have significantly influenced the final master plan. It came to nothing, because it was wrecked by loud and unrelenting verbal disruption by a protestor. This meant that many members of the public who, also, wanted to ask questions were unable to do so during the meeting.
This meeting was so important. It was wrecked. I was so angry, because it had taken so much time and effort to actually get the meeting together.
It was at this point I decided the spokesman for the protestors was actually sabotaging any real efforts to influence the planning application and I became increasingly concerned by the method of protest. I openly decided I would not stand by the protestor any longer. This decision saddened me, as I had hoped, together, through reasonable debate, we could influence changes to the final plan.
I cannot support those who think that spitting at me in the street, shouting at me in public, making abusive and aggressive telephone calls to my home, and sending me unpleasant e-mails and letters, is, an effective method of protest.
Many residents who are angry and worried about the development have approached me. They have been reassured once I have explained what is really happening, explained what work has been done to influence the planning application and what still can be done to represent their views on Coatham and on other issues.
I’ve been called ‘spineless’ and ‘an absolute disgrace’ as a Councillor. I am not spineless. I am angry and disappointed. I will not associate with those who cannot conduct themselves in a rational manner and enter into proper debate to be heard. To earn respect you have to show respect.
I have been disgusted at the way that certain protestors have used the proposed Coatham development to attack personally, individual Council officers. The officers are simply getting on with their job. They are responsible and professional persons. I write for them as much as myself. They are hard working and committed.
The Protest has now gone far beyond the Coatham Enclosure issue. It is now also an attack on the Council and its Officers. This is another reason why I cannot show my full support for the protest group even though I share a personal common viewpoint.
Unfortunately, the most vocal protestors won’t be able to fulfil any of the promises they make to anyone, because they have ignored the real opportunities offered to them to influence the development through discussion and debate.
Because I have been so unsettled about the direction and manner of the protest and the consequent pressure imposed upon me, I had considered resigning from my post as your Ward Councillor. This is however not a path I now choose to follow.
I am extremely proud to be representing yourselves and working on your behalf and shall endeavour to continue to act as your representative to the very best of my abilities.