Triumph of free speech for town
SIR – You will have read elsewhere in The Comet about the outcome of the High Court case brought by the Heritage Foundation to prevent residents discussing them in a parish meeting. None of the Foundation s arguments washed with Mr Justice Irwin. In his
SIR - You will have read elsewhere in The Comet about the outcome of the High Court case brought by the Heritage Foundation to prevent residents discussing them in a parish meeting.
None of the Foundation's arguments washed with Mr Justice Irwin. In his judgement he noted that a considerable number of people had voted for a change in the governance of the Foundation, and that said residents had a clear role to play in the governance of the Foundation.
Describing the action as strange, he noted that a future Act of Parliament could be brought to bring the Foundation back as a public body and this would require 'intense discussions with the parish'. In his final remarks he agreed fully with me when he said 'it is inconceivable that this is not a parish affair and it was therefore a proper subject for a poll'. The Foundation now faces costs from this case of around �80,000.
The Foundation acknowledged in their court papers that the poll result is not academic. Now that they have lost the argument that it was unlawful, I call on them to act on the poll and reform themselves. I do not want to see the end of the Foundation - far from it, but I do want to see them behaving in a different way and start listening to people. If they will not behave differently then we should press for real democratic reform.
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The main result from this is that never again should they be able to take or threaten to take individuals to the High Court for discussing or daring to discuss the way they are run or what they do.
It is a triumph for free speech and I thank everyone for their letters and emails of support during what has been a difficult period. It puts paid once and for all to the idea that the Foundation is not accountable to the people of Letchworth - they clearly are.
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Cllr PHILIP ROSS
Chairman of Letchworth GC Parish Meeting and
Defendant at the High Court