A park group is on the verge of collapse after a dispute with the council led to two key members resigning.
Clive and Sue Fennell will stand down as chairman and secretary of the Friends of Mewsbrook Park at the end of the month after feeling ignored by Arun District Council about the condition of the lake.
They want a group of slaves but we are a group with brainsClive Fennell
Sue, 51, said she felt ‘totally let down’: “I have been volunteering for 30 years and this is the first time I have not felt respected as a volunteer.
“We have done a brilliant job in bringing the group into the 21st century, the community are behind us because they know we love the park, but when you take things forward to the council on behalf of the public it is like hitting your head against a brick wall.”
Clive said last year the council lowered the lake’s water levels to kill off the spiral tasselweed that grew there, ignoring the group’s warning that it was a food source for native birds.
As a result, Clive said a lot of wildlife has left the lake, and no cygnets survived this year. He added that the exposed mud caused a foul smell and scum coated the water due to an aerator which was installed to counter the lack of plantlife.
After this, the working relationship with the council broke down, prompting Clive and Sue’s departure. The group needs replacements or it will disband after 13 years.
It is one of the mayor of Littlehampton’s charities for the year, and raised £5,000 in the last 12 months for projects including a sculpture which will be unveiled on Friday. The couple will make sure all outstanding projects are finished before they leave and any surplus grant money is given back to the donators.
Clive and Sue volunteered for 10 years for Rickmansworth Waterways Trust, which recently received a group MBE for its work. Under their tenure, the Friends of Mewsbrook Park has trebled in size from 35 members to 100, including children and young families.
Clive, 56, was also key in getting a public meeting with Sussex Police after a string of vandalism incidents.
He felt the council just wanted them to be ‘rubbish pickers’ and run children’s activities: “They want a group of slaves but we are a group with brains.”
He called for Arun District Council to approve a new charter for the group – but a council spokesman said it was up to the group to decide its own future.
The spokesman said the council and the Friends of Mewsbrook Park had worked together to get the Green Flag Award for the last 13 years at the park, which provided ‘independent verification’ that its management was up to scratch.
But Sue Fennell said the award was given on the merit of last year’s judgement, and believed that had judges come to the park this year, it may not have got the Green Flag.
The council spokesman said the lake’s primary role was as a flood alleviation system for nearby development, which is what Arun has focused on – and this was ‘clearly communicated’ to the group.
They said: “The council is looking forward to working positively with the Friends of Mewsbrook Park and would like to thank both Clive and Sue for the considerable time and effort both have put into their roles.”