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RICHARD GREENWOOD: Fifty years fighting for Lenham village

Friday 23rd October 2020

IT was the end of an era when 82-year-old Richard Greenwood stood down as chairman of Lenham Parish Council in August.

Richard had been chairman since 2015 but is considered one of the more permanent fixtures among Lenham’s fittings since arriving in 1964.

He said briskly: “Over 50 years ago. Same house. Same wife.”

Always a forward thinker, Richard ran the family timber firm, but his constant stream of new ideas often conflicted with senior directors.

“Before B&Q was heard of, I won the argument to open a DIY shop, but I lost the call to accept Barclaycard payments.”

He joined the parish council but global travel as a timber consultant meant he missed 20 years of council business before renewing his interest upon retirement in the 1990’s.

He found things never changed: “The council was still debating the same issues. Housing. Roads. Toilets.”

When asked to be chairman five years ago, the council was at a low ebb, with few members and disappointed at the demise of the first neighbourhood plan.

“My first task was resurrecting the council to full membership. The current neighbourhood plan started in 2014, and it is gratifying to have witnessed the conclusion. It was submitted last December and passed by the inspectorate.”

Not one to mince words, Richard said: “It’s not been easy. MBC planning officers ride roughshod over local plans and we are constantly battling non-communication with MBC.”

“We never get answers from Alison Broom, CEO at MBC. Communication is very poor. We were totally unaware of the Lenham Heath plan until someone leaked it to us. Then we woke up and realised we had to fight.”

Still stirring the pot, he added: “There is total conflict between parish councils and MBC officers. The officers obviously have their own agendas. It’s disgraceful.”

Richard retains a position on the Neighbourhood Plan Implementation Committee and new parish chairman, John Britt, is happy to keep this experienced hand close to the tiller.

He said: “There’s no angle to Richard. He’s fiercely pro-village.”

Kate Hammond, leader of SOHL, the Lenham Heath action group, agreed: “Richard is totally dedicated. He genuinely cares for the village and the community.”

So where does this quiet, but combative, former chairman hope to see his village in five years?

“Watching a building programme dictated by our neighbourhood plan. Parking problems solved. And Lenham Heath gone away. It is not sustainable.”