Council killjoy tries intimidation to halt Conan Doyle lake event

It appears that Tony Brooks, the “director of environment” at the council, has redoubled his efforts to be cast as the villain of the piece, the evil Professor Moriarty of Croydon if you like, with another letter to the South Norwood Tourist Board.

This time, the council official appears to try to intimidate the residents’ group into abandoning their plans to stage a ceremony in the local country park next month to rename the lake there after Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, the former Norwood resident and author who devised Sherlock Holmes.

The trouble for Brooks is that, unlike Moriarty, he is no mastermind, criminal or otherwise.

Tony "Anthony" Brooks: an expert on crime, anti-social behaviour and ... copyright law

Tony “Anthony” Brooks: an expert on crime, anti-social behaviour and … copyright law. He’s clearly no criminal mastermind

“Anthony” Brooks is the former copper who joined Croydon Council in 2009 on a mission to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. Hasn’t that worked well, then?

He now works in the planning and environment department on “public safety and public realm”. Before Christmas, it was Brooks who was outed as the council officer who wanted to use “all available bye [sic] laws” to stop a local homelessness charity offering a soup kitchen in Queen’s Gardens.

Yesterday, the nice people at the South Norwood Tourist Board got a letter from someone at the council signing themselves as “Anthony Brooks”, almost three weeks after they had written to him. Brooks had previously written to Woodside councillor Paul Scott to tell him that it would not be possible for a group of residents, many in fancy dress, to gather in a public park, spout some poetry, do some Morris dancing and generally have a bit of a laugh.

In his latest letter, Brooks has not changed his position as the council’s killjoy-in-chief. Instead, he has adopted scare tactics.

Attaching a booking form and a somewhat patronising official “Event Organising Safety Booklet” with his letter, Brooks states that no event can be staged “while we satisfy ourselves that the appropriate and necessary consultation has been conducted and approved by the elected administration”. Just the slightest tad pompous, perhaps?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: residents in South Norwood want to name a local feature after the celebrated writer

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: residents in South Norwood want to name a local feature after the celebrated writer

This may have something to do with the fact that the “elected administration”, in this case Tory cabinet member to whom Brooks reports, is none other than Councillor Phil Thomas, well-known as Croydon Town Hall’s political bruiser.

Brooks does not seek to explain or apologise for not having already conducted “the appropriate and necessary consultation”, nor obtained the “elected administration” approval, which was sought nearly four months ago in a letter sent to Thomas’s boss, the council leader, florid-faced Mike Fisher.

As a former member of the Metropolitan Police, Brooks really ought to know better than to try to incite the South Norwood Tourist Board into a possible illegal act, asking them to “share with us information” from their online poll – something which may be in breach of the terms of the Data Protection Act.

Just in case his attempt to intimidate the residents’ group by seeking to identify those who took part in their poll does not work, with fox-like cunning (not), Brooks then tried another tack. Under the guise of being helpful, he writes: “Could you also advise me if you have sought any advice or guidance from the Conan Doyle Estate Ltd regarding copyright issues and ‘brand’ of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle”.

Brooks does not seem to have any understanding of the law of copyright. Names of individuals are not usually covered by copyright, and this certainly would not be the case in an instance where no commercial activity is associated, as with the lake renaming.

The South Norwood Tourist Board "in action": from left, Ian Bone, Jason Cooper and Woodside councillor, Paul Scott

The South Norwood Tourist Board “in action”: from left, Ian Bone, Jason Cooper and Woodside councillor, Paul Scott

But from his ivory tower in the council’s £140 million new offices, Brooks then seeks to deter the event organisers even further. Only when he is sent that information, Brooks writes, will “the Director of Environment” – meaning himself – discuss the matter with “the Cabinet Member for Parks” – meaning Thomas – “to assess the levels of interest in giving the lake a name or whether further consultation is necessary”.

Ahhh. That old faithful standby of overly officious jobsworths in local authorities up and down the land: “further consultation”. This could take forever. The February 1 date for the SNTB ceremony is 10 days away.

Whatever Brooks is seeking to achieve, it is not working. “The event will take place despite Mr Brooks’ continual attempts to prevent us going ahead,” Jason Cooper, one of the organisers, told Inside Croydon today.

“This is not a commercial venture but one of fun, eccentricity and celebration of our area and heritage – something I believe should be encouraged not having obstacles in their way.

“I have visions of armed police with riot vans and water cannon, and helicopters above as the council try to prevent our merry bunch trying to walk around our local public park,” Cooper said.

“I can’t believe that Mr Brooks doesn’t have anything better to do with his time. The Tory council have never given a fuck about South Norwood, so I don’t really understand why they want to prevent us with our now unofficial naming,

“On February 1, South Norwood Tourist Board, a poet, Morris dancers and the local community will descend upon the local park to meander amongst the countryside ending by the lake, where Conan Doyle will be commemorated whilst offerings to fairies are made as it is the festival of Imbolc,” Cooper said.

In a poll conducted by Inside Croydon, nearly 95 per cent of our loyal readers said that they think Tony Brooks is behaving like a twat. Or something like that. And no, we are not going to name them to anyone…

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5 Responses to Council killjoy tries intimidation to halt Conan Doyle lake event

  1. Had a look at the by laws for the park. Unlikely that the event would be in breach. Not sure how the booklet mentioned can be mandatory. In any case general H&S law and practice would take precedent and one would be wise to follow that rather than any other publication.

    I’d be interested to know what powers individual officers or members have to stop people using a public park providing they comply with any by laws. Perhaps the council’s legal experts can advise?

  2. Pingback: INSIDE CROYDON ON COUNCIL’S LAKE FIASCO | South Norwood Tourist Board

  3. Andrew Leng says:

    Really – has Mr Brooks nothing better to do?. Surely a group of people that take such pride in their community and wish to promote it as a interesting and pleasant environment in which to live, should be praised and encouraged for the valuable work that they are doing. After all it’s a good example of Cameron’s “big society” in action and you would have thought that the Tory led Croydon Council would be all for it. Instead this total jobsworth appears to be on some petty crusade to stop people having a bit of fun, with this simple and light hearted naming ceremony. It’s a really novel and inventive way of publicizing the country park, the facilities and the lake within it, as well as remembering one of Britain’s greatest writers and celebrating the links that he had to the local area.

    Mr Brooks should get a life and stop meddling in this event. Through his actions he is coming across as a sour faced killjoy with no sense of fun or community. I applaud the South Norwood Tourist Board for their efforts in promoting their local area and encouraging others to take an interest and pride in it. If more people followed their lead, Croydon would be a much better place to live in. As for Mr Brooks – he really should lighten up.

  4. ndavies144 says:

    Do the Council’s Stasi (sorry, Enforcement Officers) come under him? In which case expect the whole lot to turn up taking £75 off anyone who dares to breath.

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