Two new trustees join Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust after hotly contested vote

Richard Wiseman. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Richard Wiseman. Picture: Nigel Sutton. - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Two new members have been elected to the Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust after an election pitched as a battle between the traditionalists and reformers.

Michael Franklin. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Michael Franklin. Picture: Nigel Sutton. - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Members of the trust cast their votes last Wednesday after a hotly contested election fought by four candidates.

Former clothes store owner Michael Franklin, 69, and retired lawyer Richard Wiseman, 62, beat two “reformist” candidates to become the organisation’s latest trustees. They replace outgoing chairman Angus Walker and fellow trustee Geoffrey Marriot, who are stepping down after two three-year terms.

Mr Wiseman, a father-of-three who has lived in the Suburb for 17 years, received the highest number of votes and ran on the traditionalist slogan of “evolution not revolution”.

“It’s very flattering to have won what was quite a hotly contested vote,” he said. “It’s clear there are important things to be done.

“We need to build bridges between the community and the trust and we also need to mend the ill-will generated by the Henrietta Barnett School extension.

“There are dissenters who keep banging on about it but it’s something we can’t do anything about so it’s time to move on – that’s what I hope to do.”

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Mr Franklin, who was brought up in the Suburb and moved back 13 years ago, is a newcomer to the committee and a self-described “traditionalist”.

“I’m here to listen and learn, but I also have a lot of my own ideas I want to put forward including a greater involvement of the trust in our open spaces,” he said.

“A lot of parks are owned by Barnet Council who I know would love to get rid of the costs involved in maintaining them.

“I want to see the trust co-operating with Barnet and perhaps become responsible for some of the planting there.”

While the new trustees say they are excited to meet their fellow members at the Suburb’s next meeting on October 15, work is still to be done to address the concerns of the not insignificant number of people who voted for candidates seeking more radical reforms.

A lack of communication and transparency appeared to be one of the topics most dear to members’ hearts during the election.

Brian Ingram, 64, a losing candidate, had been a strong critic of the trust’s “undemocratic” tendencies.

He said: “The only way we can read about the trust is in the Suburb newsletter which represents the trust’s point of view.

“There are no alternative opinions in there.”

Fellow candidate Dr Raphael Papadopoulos, who lost with 331 votes, said he also represented the concerns of those who thought the trust needed to be more accountable to its members.

But Mr Wiseman dismissed the criticism and said some were asking for things the trust, which was set up in 1968 to preserve the character of Hampstead Garden Suburb, could not deliver.

He said: “Anyone who thinks the trust should be democratic doesn’t understand how the body works.

“It can’t be democratic – that’s not how it’s set up. But that’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of scope for wide consultation.”

Fellow new trustee Mr Franklin acknowledged that more communication with members was needed.

“I see the vote as a victory for democracy but there were clearly those who felt the trust had something to learn on issues of secrecy and a lack of communication with residents,” he said.

“The trust does need better PR and better communication with residents would help enormously.

“They don’t allow individual trustees to speak to residents so a lot of things go unsaid.”

Trustee members will soon vote on who is to replace Angus Walker as chairman.