Minister apologises - but still no information on Richmond Park closures

A cabinet minister who announced in a letter written nine days before the end of consultation on a proposed closure of Richmond Park's Robin Hood Gate and Pen Ponds car park that both would go ahead in April 2003 has been forced to issue a second apology.

Culture secretary Tessa Jowell and her officials were forced into the climbdown after admitting to a catalogue of errors involving four civil servants and the minister herself. The botched letter compiled by the four officials was being sent to a personal acquaintance of Mrs Jowell.

The council had threatened a judicial review of her apparent pre-judging of the outcome of consultation.

Campaigners feared that the comments signalled a determination by the Royal Parks Agency to force through the closures despite the overwhelming opposition from local people and park users.

The council's cabinet member for regeneration and transport Kathy Tracey said:

"We have now had a much fuller explanation of how the minister came to make such a fundamental error in presenting the closures as a fait accompli. The Secretary of State has confirmed that she will take all relevant matters into account before any decision is made. She has also assured the council that her decision has not been pre-judged.

"Sadly many of us still have grave doubts about the willingness of the RPA to complete their deliberations in anything approaching an open and transparent way.

"The three local councils are still awaiting the information promised by the RPA at our meeting last October. We have already had to cancel our December meeting because this was not
ready. One of the key items is the land train proposal which was being used as justification for closing Pen Ponds car park.

"Without this there will be little point holding the next Forum meeting on 12 February. We were also promised details of the arrangements for analysing and publishing the consultation results.

"The minister says she still has an open mind - but the obstructiveness of the RPA officials continues to leave us with real fears about the way this issue is going to be finally resolved."

A Wandsworth Council survey of people in Putney in Roehampton resulted in a vote of more than 90 per cent against the RPA's proposal to close Robin Hood Gate with 92.5 per cent against the closure of Pen Ponds car park.

The council has reported these results to the RPA.

Associated articles:

Is closing Richmond Park to rush-hour traffic restoring a priceless local amenity to its original purpose or are the Royal Parks Agency acting without due consideration to the majority of local people.

The case against closure

The Royal Parks Agency's Reply

Comment on this issue from the forum

Wandsworth Council concerned for residents if Robin Hood Gate is closed 21.02.02

Wandsworth seek legal advice to stop closure of Robin Hood Gate 26.02.02

Cllr Lister condems plans to close Pen Ponds 13.03.02

High Court forces RPA to U turn on Robin Hood Gate closure 17.04.02

Extra Time for the Richmond Park consultation. 02.08.02

Survey shows 90% of residents against gate closure. 10.09.02

Richmond Park traffic plans - public meeting October 1 - 25.09.02

Robin Hood Gate closure plea to Royal Parks as nine in ten vote against 11.11.02