STRATFORD Town Trust needs to regain the trust of townspeople.
That was the message following a heated AGM, which saw trustees accused of patronising residents after another last minute climbdown over Rowley Fields.
Earlier this year, the charity abandoned plans to sell off a 7.8 acre parcel of land for housing following a public outcry.
And trustees found themselves in the firing line again this week after another sudden about turn on a separate issue relating to the plot of land.
Up until the trust’s AGM on Wednesday July 1, it was understood trustees had objections to the land, which borders the Welcombe Hills, being designated as local green space in the draft Stratford Neighbourhood Plan.
But chairman Alan Haigh – in a statement released on Wednesday (July 8) – maintained the trust was committed to using Rowley Fields for recreation and added they would not be opposing the green space issue.
Gavin Griffiths, who attended the meeting, said: “The relationship between members and the trustees appears to be wholly broken.
“Stratford is packed to the gunnels with bright, articulate, educated, passionate people who don’t like being patronised and I thought this could be an opportunity to fix things.
“But the chaotic way it was run, the patronising tone and the feeling we were an annoyance has only inflamed the situation.”
A spokesman for campaign group Rowley Fields Forever also hit out at the trust.
He told The Observer: “This latest issue is symptomatic of the way they have done things – saying one thing then doing something else entirely.
“Trust has very much been lost and it just seems whatever their promises, they keep reversing their decisions before spinning things to make it look more positive.”
“Everybody knows the trust does great work but why does it always take huge amounts of public opposition to force a rethink or, in the last two cases, a complete u-turn?
“They have already spent around £115,000 on the issue so you have to wonder how much the final total will be.
“The people of Stratford are supposed to benefit yet money is being spent on unnecessary fights and legal battles that should have been avoided.”
But former Stratford Mayor Dr Roy Lodge was quick to defend the trust.
He said: “It was unfortunate after several excellent introductory presentations by the Chairman and Chief Executive the meeting degenerated into a rowdy and acrimonious altercation between certain members and the trustees.
“There was no attempt to acknowledge the positive aspects of the trust and instead the agenda was hijacked by members who saw fit to focus on the negative performance in relation to Rowley Fields.”
The trust confirmed this week it still planned to develop a 1.48 acre parcel of land behind 7 Benson Road.
The trust bought the property for more than £500,000 in a bid to facilitate the development of around ten homes but is currently subject to High Court proceedings.