To: Wendy Burden and Sonia Gallaher

Dear Wendy and Sonia

Re. Riseley Neighbourhood Plan (RNP)

Please be aware that I am writing to you as a concerned member of Riseley Parish Council (RPC). I have been a member of the Council since May 2023. Previously I have attended as a village resident almost every Parish Council meeting since September 2021 and have regularly contributed in the RPC Open Forum. I have lived in Riseley for the last 38 years.

I have only this week (beginning 21st August) been made aware that the RPC Neighbourhood Plan Examination has been taking place since early August – with its closing date of 14th August. In fact, as far as I understand, no other members of the RPC were informed of this. They were not requested to submit information, nor were they given the opportunity to approve of any submission purported to be from the RPC. Sadly, it seems that the Parish Council members themselves have been inexplicably and unacceptably bypassed in the Examination process.

My observations below refer to the only official communication relating to the RNP Examination that I have seen – this having been passed to me on Monday 21st August by a village resident. The document is the letter written by Kim Wilson from Bedford Borough Council (BBC) dated 14th August to Steve Carnaby.

My observations are as follows:

Re. Question 2
You should know that many of the recent reports to the RPC and village from the Riseley Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group (RNPSG) were unsigned. Because no minutes were published at the time (despite constant FOI requests from members of the public), it was never clear which members of the RNPSG had contributed. (Many invalid excuses were made by the RNPSG and RPC for lacking publication of minutes citing, among other things, cost, time it would take, and access – despite electronic versions reportedly already being in the hands of the Parish Council Clerk) Thus, the general public had no indication – even in summary – as to the main decisions at the RNPSG meetings, who was making them, and the reasoning behind them.

Re. Question 4
The statement that the RNPSG ….. “Meetings were open to residents/interested parties” is a demonstrable falsehood. Never has there been an invitation to these RNPSG meetings. A simple date on the Village Hall Calendar of Events does not constitute an invitation. Moreover, regularly the PC has made it abundantly clear that THE PUBLIC WERE NOT INVITED TO RNPSG MEETINGS. (Over this past week I have requested every member of the RPC to forward to me a record or memory of any invitation to attend a RNPSG meeting. Regular village attendees and former RPC members were also asked for this. NOT ONE PC MEMBER NOR VILLAGER HAS BEEN ABLE TO IDENTIFY A RECORD OF AN INVITATION TO AN RNPSG MEETING. Nor has the Chair of the RNPSG been able to cite a single invitation.)

The statement that “the RNPSG email address was widely publicised” is also misleading. Moreover, the re-written RNPSG Communications Protocol (attached) states that emails are not to be sent directly to the RNPSG. The Protocol reads that “All correspondence from members of the public to the RNPSG must be made via the RPC (Clerk)”. In fact, the Protocol states that “Unless deemed appropriate to do so, the RNPSG will not engage in any direct communications with the public.”

Previous to the announcement of the Protocol, many attempts by villagers to communicate by email with the RNPSG were rebutted. For example, one villager was asked by email in December 2021 by the then RPC Chair to “stop sending long emails” concerning the RNPSG. As another example, I myself was told in an email dated 18th February 2022 from a member of the RNPSG not to write another ‘snotty letter’ and that ‘ whatever (I) do in (my) sad little life, please, please, please never again try to engage in any conversation or correspondence with me.’ The Chair of the RNPSG endorsed that member’s right to send me this letter, and at a subsequent PC meeting the then Chair of the RPC (following my complaint) declared he could do nothing about the abusive letter. Basically, since my involvement from October 2021, almost all written communication from the general public to the RNPSG has been either ignored or rejected. Contributions by villagers to the RPC Open Forum have been treated in similar fashion.

I do hope you are still open to these comments and observations. Thank you for your attention to them.

Kind regards,

Ron Cooper
Riseley Parish Councillor.

Please Note:

(Note 1) I have written to you both because it was not clear to me to whom I should be writing.
(Note 2) In the interests of transparency and to ensure it is seen by all those directly involved, a copy of this email has been sent to:

Sam Langley, Clerk to Riseley Parish Council
Darren Jowett, Chair of Riseley Parish Council

Communications Protocol RNPSG

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