Tuesday 25 May 2021

Countdown to the MEOTRA AGM: Proposed Changes to the Constitution


1975 - West Ham win the FA Cup, “George Davis is Innocent” graffiti springs up all over east London and MEOTRA is formed. The MEOTRA constitution has been largely unchanged since then, with the last revision in 1996 at the request of Clinton Road residents to include them within our residents’ association.

When elected as Chair in October 2020 one of my stated aims was to produce an updated constitution to put to the members at the 2021 AGM. The committee has agreed to propose a revised constitution and we now put it to you, the residents in the MEOTRA area, to vote upon at our forthcoming AGM on Thursday 3rd June.

You can read the proposed constitution here, and compare it to the existing 1996 one here.

Why revise the constitution and what key changes are proposed?


MEOTRA endeavours to have a committee that is representative of the WHOLE area. We currently have a committee drawn from 7 of its 14 streets, a range of ages, renters and home owners, those who have lived here for years and those that are recent arrivals, ethnicities, single members, families, sexualities. It is about as wide-ranging as it could realistically be. It has long been a tacit aim to have a widely representative committee and now we just want to put that in writing. 

Adding scope for more residents to help out

For years long-term residents such as Vivian, Alice and Allen have automatically turned up with mulled wine, mince pies and even their own Splat the Rat! We would like MEOTRA to involve more residents than those on the committee and a few stalwarts in contributing to the running of the organisation. The proposal is to use sub-committees with a wider membership to organise things such as:

  • The Fun Day,

  • Carols Singing in the Square

and collaborate with other groups to improve the natural environment: Tredegar Square, Holy Trinity churchyard, the scheduled pocket park at the west end of Lichfield Road and increasing the number of trees throughout the area. 


One of MEOTRA’s key roles has been to try and maintain the character and appearance of the Tredegar Square and Clinton Road Conservation Areas (CAs) and that has been done by making representations to the Council on planning applications based on planning policy principles such as the Council’s Character Appraisal and Management Guidelines for each of our two CAs; the Local Plan and the London Plan.

If MEOTRA hadn’t fought Tower Hamlets planning department over the years then the homes where many of us live would have been flattened and turned into parkland as part of the ‘70s slum clearances.We have managed to have the old toll house on the corner of Grove and Mile End Roads listed, played a major role in preventing the proposed 43-storey Benjy’s Towers and prevented the replacement of the Grove Road Texaco Garage with what would have been a tall dominant block of flats. We have alas failed to stop the proposed demolition of the old blacksmiths in Grove Road, but we continue to fight to keep the Greedy Cow site as it has looked for some 140 years. 

In November 2015 Tower Hamlets Council consulted on allowing Mansard roofs within the Tredegar Square Conservation Area. Letters were sent to all 1,045 addresses informing residents how to engage in the consultation. Only 40 responses were received. Of these a majority of 55% did not want to see Mansards. MEOTRA kept out of this council consultation.

The committee proposes “the Association shall not normally become involved in planning applications or other disputed issues of an individual nature”. We propose to continue to make representations on commercial applications, but not ones submitted by neighbours. Likewise the committee will not campaign or lobby on behalf of groups of residents for changes to the area's planning policies.

We are proposing the above, to avoid division within MEOTRA. In any case, a letter from the MEOTRA committee counts no more than any other that raises the same planning points. Decisions are made by planning officers based on planning policy not on who makes representations.

Other headline changes:

  • The constitution hasn’t been revised in 25 years and is showing its age.

  • An Equal Opportunities section has been added

  • The quorate for the AGM and SGMs has been reduced from 30 to 20

  • The previous version had very few checks and balances.

  • Clear financial controls have been added

  • It now incorporates a code of conduct

  • A declaration of interest had been added

  • Rather than election by secret ballot (which no one recalls being used) we propose to use a show of hands

  • Coborn was misspelt!

Tomorrow we will publish information on the AGM, how to register to attend (via Zoom), how to propose amendments and how to stand for the committee


  1. I am not sure if my comments were published so I am trying again.

    The updating of the constitution is a positive step but I have concerns in a number of key areas:

    Firstly the committee membership. We need to add further governance measures to ensure that the committee does not become dominated by individuals who, over time, come to exert disproportionate influence: terms should not exceed 3 years; no committee member should be able to serve more than two consecutive terms or 3 in total; family members should be disqualified from immediate election upon the end of a member's term to prevent committee members from recycling their seats and influence; terms should be staggered so that not all members have to step down at the same time.

    Voting by a show of hands is not correct with such a wide potential membership - MEOTRA members should be encouraged to vote by doodle poll or some other kind of electronic voting system if they don't want to attend the meetings. The outcome of committee votes should be published.

    Use of sub-committees. These must be transparent and open to scrutiny as they are a notorious mechanism used to 'get round' difficult issues and push changes through in an undemocratic fashion. The Committee has to set out who has the power to appoint sub-committees, in what circumstances, how co-opted members will be selected, how MEOTRA members can apply for these committees and so forth. And of course it goes without saying that in order for this to happen the MEOTRA community needs to know in good time that a sub-committee is going to be created, including its purpose and terms of reference.

    I have grave concerns about the statements regarding offensive behaviour as it could be used to disqualify people from voicing objections and cancelling out dissenting voices. There is no platform for adjudication and determining what constitutes offensive behaviour and there is no mechanism for mediating these kind of disputes. These must be included even if it is referring to recourse to third party mediation services. We must not take steps which have the potential to stifle democratic debate and legitimate challenge to policies and strategies just because we do not like the way that these objections are expressed.

    The role and remit of MEOTRA should continue to include the preservation and protection of the area's architectural heritage and character and it should not seek to exclude individual planning applications from the remit. If one person were to gain permission to say, dig a basement or raise the roof height above all the other levels around, then this would set a precedent which could lead to drastic and negative changes to some of our beautiful streets and squares. Changes such as this have to be mediated through wider considerations such as traffic, parking, loss of light, loss of privacy and amenity, etc etc. It can't be left to those with the deepest pockets to shove through unwanted changes.

    In addition, we should not be reducing MEOTRA's scope to one concentrating on discussions about street parties and street furniture, and peripheral traffic changes. There are much more important things to tackle, such as the imposition of gates on Coburn Road, the loss of ease of access for the disabled to their own home streets, etc etc.

    We also need to broaden the scope of MEOTRA beyond the built heritage to support Tower Hamlets in improving the green spaces and amenities around the housing estates which are right next to Mile End Old Town.

    As the revised constitution is currently drafted I will be voting against the changes.

  2. I have had issues publishing my comments also hence the test above.
    I note that the use of the term quorate is not particularly inclusive. I understand from this statement that it is proposed that the committee is being reduced from 30 to 20. Is this the case? This is a reduction of a 1/3 which could also significantly reduce the variety of voices on the committee. Is there a reason for this reduction? If such a large change is being proposed it is even more important that new voices are included in the committee. I have spoken with a few neighbours who have expressed an interest in joining the committee so I believe there are people happy and willing to undertake this role if it is purely a case of not finding sufficient people to undertake the task.

    1. Hi Sally,

      That is interesting what you say about the word "quorate". What wording would you suggest? Large parts of the proposed constitution were taken from model constitutions available from councils (e.g Lambeth, Wandsworth and Camden as well as other organisations similar to ours).

      One proposal is to change the number of residents (NOT committee) who need to turn up to the association's Annual General Meeting for it to be able to take place (ie to be quorate) from 30 to 20. I personally thought 25 might have been about right, but I went with the majority committee suggestion. Changes to the constitution are made democratically by all the residents attending the AGM, not by the committee.

      It is great that residents are interested in joining the committee. Obviously you will have read this post's opening paragraph about representation: "MEOTRA endeavours to have a committee that is representative of the WHOLE area. We currently have a committee drawn from 7 of its 14 streets, a range of ages, renters and home owners, those who have lived here for years and those that are recent arrivals, ethnicities, single members, families, sexualities. It is about as wide-ranging as it could realistically be. It has long been a tacit aim to have a widely representative committee and now we just want to put that in writing." We can discuss this at the Open Meeting this Thursday