She was one of Birmingham’s longest serving and most outspoken community activists who fought against supermarkets and major companies to protect her village from development.
But now, after 20 years, a row among a residents association in Walmley, Sutton Coldfield, has seen stalwart Maureen Murphy ousted from the group in a dramatic coup.
Mrs Murphy had stood up to the likes of Asda supermarket, electronics company Philips UK, housing developers and browbeaten umpteen politicians while battling for her corner of the town.
But she was removed as chairman of the Walmley Residents’ Association after members became angry at her support for a new YMCA youth centre planned for the village.
The row centres on proposals, recently approved by the city’s planning department, to build the youth centre along with up to 110 houses on part of the former Hardy Spicer Sports Ground.
While Mrs Murphy and the association has long campaigned for the community centre part of the plan, her rivals who formed the Walmley Is Full campaign group, are opposed to all development on the site.
The tensions spilled over at a heated annual meeting where Anne Angus, of the Walmley Is Full group, was installed as chairwoman, ending Mrs Murphy’s long reign.
In a bitter swipe at the group, Mrs Murphy said: “New members had been recruited by members of the Walmley Is Full campaign specifically for the purpose of disrupting the meeting and voting us out.
“If campaigners used such underhand tactics to get in how can you trust them in the future. I’d wanted to leave it in safe hands when I retire. This isn’t safe hands.”
She said that the new committee has inherited a war chest of £20,000 to fund any future planning inquiries.
The funds had been built up from subscriptions to fight off any green belt development. It follows the association’s, and Mrs Murphy’s, finest hour during the late 1990s when they won a planning inquiry and stopped farm land at Peddimore becoming the site of a new Philips micro-electronics plant.
The association has also, under Mrs Murphy’s leadership, opposed countless planning applications, and in many cases won concessions, fought mobile phone masts, campaigned for more school places, campaigned for road crossings and forced the Asda superstore to be considerate to neighbours during redevelopment.
Last year she even stood for election to Birmingham City Council in anger at the decision of local Conservatives to deselect a councillor of 16 years, June Fuller. She finished fourth with 887 votes.
Mrs Murphy insisted the YMCA centre will improve the village and bring much needed facilities for both young people and the wider community.
She said: “We had objected most profusely to the proposed housing development.”
But this view is rejected by the Walmley Is Full campaign which believes that all development will put unbearable strain on roads and local facilities.
Sally Jones, of Walmley Is Full, said that the association leadership had lost touch and may have had their heads turned by the YMCA development.
“It is tragic, but they lost their way. It was not pleasant at the meeting, but about 100 people voted against the committee, it was a massive vote of no confidence.”
She said that the biggest issue in Walmley is traffic congestion, as well as the pressure on school places and GP surgeries.
“There is no support for new development, either the YMCA or the housing. This change will revitalise the residents’ association and they can now do something about it,” she added.
New chairwoman Anne Angus, in a bid to smooth over the row, has said that they are now committed to representing the whole village and will hold a public meeting to address any issues.
She said: “The new committee are totally focused on providing a platform where residents can openly address concerns.
“We would urge residents who at this time need help or support on any local issues to contact us and we will do all we can to help. Walmley is a unique community with great diversity and strength; we are and will always be here to support all its residents.”