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Three Rivers District Council reject Rickmansworth Neighbourhood Forum proposal
A group of Rickmansworth residents proposing a neighbourhood group failed to secure recognition from Three Rivers District Council.
Organisers had hoped to set up the Rickmansworth Neighbourhood Forum to "promote a vibrant town centre with varied local shops and we want to promote a strong community that supports local residents".
But at Monday night’s executive meeting the group was told their proposed area would need to be extended to cover the whole of the Rickmansworth County Division including Maple Cross and Mill End.
The forum already has 79 members and a number of their supporters sat in the public gallery during the meeting.
Interim chairman David Sansom said the forum does not have members in all those areas so could face being turned down for not being representative.
He said: "In effect Three Rivers District Council don’t want a neighbourhood forum in Rickmansworth, despite the localism act and the government trying the empower local people, this council likes thing the way they are.
"They don’t like the fact that we are using email to make decisions, they like the old fashioned way of long tedious meetings."
Rickmansworth is un-parished unlike many other areas in the district and the suggestion was raised by councillors that the group could form into a parish council instead - something that would require them to hold elections and add a precept to the council tax bills of their residents.
Councillor Chris Hayward rejected this, saying: "It is not for this council to tell the residents what they want.
"It is not for us to say ‘you should be a parish council’, that’s Big Brother talking."
But council leader Councillor Ann Shaw hit back, saying the group had made a number of misunderstandings about the role and power a neighbourhood forum would have.
She said: "There is no fund waiting for a forum to be set up, no powers other than to produce a local plan which must be in line with TRDC's planning policies and will take time and expertise to draw up.
"It has to undergo extensive consultation, be agreed by the council and be submitted to a referendum before it can be adopted.
"It can set out design policies, propose more development than TRDC but cannot stop planned development.
"There seemed to be a lack of understanding about the role of Special Expenses and Parish Precepts.
"Residents in parished areas pay extra council tax. Many members of the executive felt that the proposers should reconsider setting up a parish council."
She added that concerns had been raised during the consultation about the proposed boundaries - which in some areas would see residents on one side of the road eligible to join but their neighbours opposite left out.
She added: "When the public consultation about the forum was carried out the response was 8 in favour, 17 against, 5 neutral - not overwhelming.
"There were particular objections to the geographical area selected, and to the unelected nature of the forum.
"It was felt that the health and well-being of Rickmansworth depended on all its residents not just a selected few, and that the exclusion of people who lived nearer to the centre than some within the area was unfair.
"It was the boundary issue which led us to ask for a rethink.
"This needs to be something for the whole community and the proposal made many people feel rejected, second class citizens. We could not accept that and so we asked them to rethink it."