Objection not an option at this phantom forum

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the letter from Molly Bake ‘Chairwoman’ of the Sowerby Bridge Community Forum. (We totally support the Copley Valley Scheme, Courier, June 15).

Surely few organisations could be so absurdly mis-titled.

Hundreds of civic-minded folk in Sowerby Bridge will have scratched their heads and asked themselves Who? What?

The so-called Sowerby Bridge Community Forum turns out to be nothing like its name suggests: a number of its key members do not even live in Sowerby Bridge, not least its secretary, a Bradfordian; despite claims in its literature to be ‘open to all’ its meetings are not advertised; nor does it even provide a forum for serious debate for its own members, let alone the whole community.

Neither agenda nor minutes are published. You will search in vain for a website.

Members of the public who do miraculously find their way to meetings are soon made very unwelcome if their views fail to coincide with the chair and secretary.

Indeed the officers use their power to blackball anyone who has the temerity to apply for membership and whom they believe might not agree with them. Some community forum!

As for supporting GenR8’s Copley valley project, SBCF members themselves may have some difficulty recalling the occasion when they actually voted to support this scheme. Though if they had it would be no surprise since only speakers in favour of the Copley Valley scheme have ever been invited to address the group – intentionally depriving members of important factual information, which would have informed their views.

Though some newer members are in the dark, the Sowerby Bridge Community Forum was created in 2004 to be in effect a fig-leaf organisation to support any development project council officers might wish to foist on the community, and thus provide the convenient illusion of ‘community involvement’. For the often elderly members, whether they know it or not, objection has never, ever been an option.

To laugh or cry? I weep for the whole community of Sowerby Bridge, every single member of which has been and is still being cheated of his and her right to participate in civic life by Sowerby Bridge’s phantom forum. But I’d spare a small tear too for those innocent SBCF members who have not understood their pre-determined role as council officers’ cannon-fodder.

Meanwhile Molly Bake’s implied claim that the wider public of Sowerby Bridge has been supportive of a scheme which will swamp local schools and cause traffic gridlock in the town is every bit as deceptive as the woefully mis-named ‘community’ forum.

There has surely never been any similar local organisation in such crying need of root and branch reform.

Stephen Ainsworth

Prospect Avenue

Pye Nest