Lord mayor criticises campaigner in email - and mistakenly copies them in

The hole in the hedgerow where the century-old yew tree had been

Residents living near Heigham Park say the council is building the courts without proper community consultation, with Mayor Lord Kevin Maguire copying one of them into a critical email sent to another councilor about the issue - Credit: George Thompson/ Danielle Booden

Norwich's lord mayor was left red-faced after accidentally copying a campaigner into a "bizarre and inappropriate" email destined for the eyes of councillors only.

The Heigham Park Consultation Group wants Norwich City Council to rethink plans to replace the park's current grass tennis courts with all-weather alternatives.

But they've been left feeling "demoralised and depressed" after lord mayor Kevin Maguire mistakenly sent an email criticising the group to one of its members.

Campaigners in a park

Campaigners want Norwich City Council to pause plans for hard tennis courts at Heigham Park for consultation. - Credit: Lucy Galvin

In the email addressed to fellow councillors — but also an unwitting campaigner— Mr Maguire was critical of the group and bemoaned that cabinet member Matthew Packer had been required to reply to them.

But he has been defended by deputy council leader Gail Harris, who said they were not intended as critical.

Heigham Park campaigners call for grass court rethink

Heigham Park campaigners call for grass court consultation - Credit: George Thompson

The crux of the group's frustration is that they believe the plans did not receive proper public consultation before the proposal was agreed in 2018, though the council itself maintains it carried out due process.

As part of the group's ongoing campaign, one resident reiterated their concerns to parks and open spaces cabinet member, Matthew Packer.

He replied copying in Mr Maguire, who then replied "all" with his jibe.

Lucy Galvin, chair of the Marlpit Community Centre. Pic: Paul Harrison.

Lucy Galvin - Credit: Paul Harrison

Campaigner James Packham said: "It's depressing and demoralising.

"We've been working hard to make our voices heard, and this email shows just how entrenched everyone's view is on this.

Most Read

"He's using all this weird, militaristic language", Mr Packham added.

"It was just bizarre."

Ms Harris, though, said: "The comments made, while relating to a decision made more than four years ago, do not express an opinion on the decision itself. 

"They were intended to personally offer moral support to colleagues on a matter they have been overseeing for a number of years on an issue on which opinion is divided."

Ward councillor Lucy Galvin said:  "I'm uncomfortable with the suggestion that Matthew Packer replying to a resident about his cabinet portfolio is somehow a waste of his time.

"Besides, it is in the council constitution that lord mayors should be politically neutral, and this is anything but."

Ms Harris, however, added that while lord mayors are required to be non-political and uninvolved in decision-making, they still had responsibilities to their residents. 

Lord Mayor Kevin Maguire making a speech at the new Big C Centre on Dereham Road in Norwich. Picture

Lord Mayor Kevin Maguire making a speech at the new Big C Centre on Dereham Road in Norwich. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

The email in full

In the email, which was erroneously sent to a member of the consultation group, Mr Maguire wrote the following:

"Another good reply, Matthew,

And yet it consumes your energies that could be directed elsewhere much more usefully: what a crazy world.

courage mon brave ! 

Or perhaps I should say “once more unto the breach dear friends, once more”.  We are with you on the barricade defending our City for all of its citizens."