Peace talks have been offered as a way of healing rifts between two residents groups “at loggerheads” with only days to go to a crunch regeneration ballot.
Residents in part of Fullers Slade, in Milton Keynes, are set to vote on November 28 and 29 for one of three options which could see some homes demolished, and leaseholders facing refurbishment costs.
A meeting of MK Council’s regeneration cabinet sub-committee heard that passions have been raised as people argue vociferously on Facebook for their favoured option. Residents’ groups are trying to remain neutral on the question.
At one point at Thursday’s meeting, Bianca Bendig-Ceesay, of the Fullers Slade Residents Association (FSRA), threatened taking legal advice over a report that had been published in the council papers by the Fullers Slade Regeneration Steering Group (RSG).
A report tabled by Sylvia Airs, who chairs the RSG, claimed that the FSRA had been campaigning for one of the options in the upcoming ballot.
“The RSG has been informed that at its last meeting, the FSRA actively urged residents to vote for Option 2 which they see to be the best approach for the estate,” the report read.
But that raised the hackles of the residents’ association, with Bianca Bendig-Ceesay slamming the “unfounded allegations.”
“We are not telling people what to vote for, only what they are getting,” she said.
“Letting an unsupported claim get published in the council papers without proof or background checks is absolutely unacceptable,” she said. “We are happy to take legal advice.”
Committee chairman, Cllr Nigel Long (Lab, Bletchley West), who has spoken out in favour of one of the options, said he was “horrified” that residents’ groups are “at loggerheads.”
After taking legal advice from one of his officers, the said the dispute was not a matter for the committee.
“It is all extremely unfortunate, and that has been one of the weaknesses of Fullers Slade. I am happy to come to meet residents and mediate between you, I don’t want to see a further conflict. It’s not for the council to sensor them. But I am happy to come, sit down, talk and mediate.
“It does not help in the process of getting a good outcome, we should consider all this outside the meeting.”
Cllr Long also said the question of how to involve residents in the regeneration process was being considered.
Michael Kelleher, the council’s director of housing and regeneration, said officers were also in the process of arranging a meeting between the RSG and the FSRA.
“We will set up a meeting. We are in contact and we will arrange a meeting,” he said.
Meanwhile, the council has confirmed that despite issues over the amount of information that residents have, and questions over who has received ballot papers, the ballot will be going ahead at the end of the month as planned.