Photo credit: Examiner
Villagers are demanding an apology from the Friends of Shepley after the group accused 'certain' people in the village of complaining about a playground they'd built close to the War Memorial.
Last week council workers removed the play equipment because of fears over safety. This led to a tirade of abuse from Friends supporters on social media accusing unnamed people in the village of conspiring against the group.
However, one resident, who didn't want to be named over fears of being ridiculed in the Friends of Shepley Facebook group, told us "It's awful. The Friends have put everyone in the village under suspicion. Who are these certain people? Is it me? It's not the first time they've done that. You should have read what they said about people supposedly vandalising trees they'd planted."
An anonymous Administrator said on the group's Facebook community page:
"Although we had permission from Kirklees and even had site meetings with Parks to prove the complaints from certain people in the ‘ward’ were unfounded... it appears they have more power over Kirklees than expected. It is a real shame that a few unpleasant people could not support something that has been so popular and beneficial to the village."
However, under a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request which local man Ken Moore made to the council, it's been revealed that the Friends of Shepley never got the council's permission to build the playground in the first place. The council's FOI response also confirmed that no-one in the village had lodged a complaint about the play area. Despite the Friends' claims.
According to Mr Moore, Lindsay Foody from the Council's Information Governance team had responded
"The Council has met with representatives of the Friends of Shepley who installed the equipment. They provided no evidence to state that they had permission to install it. We advised them that they did not have permission to install it and would be removing it due to our qualified Play Inspector deeming it to be unsafe apparatus in a public place.
1. Number of complaints
From members of the public, none. From the Council, one.
2. Who objected?
The Council, which would be liable if any injuries or accidents were to take place
3. Reasons for removal
Unsafe – poorly constructed and not suitable in a public place, no permissions were given for it to be there, and the risk of accident was too great to allow for it to remain."
Villagers are now demanding to know exactly what meetings the Friends of Shepley had with council officials, who they talked to, and when. "They have to answer questions over how they handled this project. The childen's play area was a great idea, but they've let us all down," the resident said.
According to Facebook members, the Friends have banned Shepley's elected councillors from joining what they claim is, an 'inclusive' group. They are not even prepared to enter into dialogue with them.
Other online users have also raised concerns over the suspected use of false profiles in the group to fan discontent. If true, this is contrary to Facebook's community guidelines which expect people to create just one profile and to treat each other with respect.
One expert, who works with top social media companies on liability and child safeguarding issues told us:
"False social media profiles stand out like a sore thumb. They are often used by paedophiles to groom children. We would seriously question why people are using them to deceive the community. We can easily monitor behind the scenes what's going on."
The recent Examiner article creates noise about the playground fiasco. But, it does not answer key questions on governance, accountability and responsibility. Most professional community organisations and groups across the UK set down their own constitutional rules agreed by their members. These rules ensure that projects are carried out diligently, transparently, and have agreement from members. So as to avoid the kinds of situations we've just experienced in Shepley!
In today's blame and claim culture it's naive to carry out works without first obtaining written permission and doing a proper risk assessment. Companies will not pay out for accident claims where there are doubts raised over the validity of insurance. It's all in the small print.
Before publication of the Examiner article we contacted the Friends of Shepley and urged them to seek a meeting with the local councillors. They did not respond. Meanwhile, more episodes will play out on social media, no doubt. A thrill to watch for some. A complete turn-off for the silent majority who don't want to get involved.
Therein may lie the problem... and the solution!