IT’S undemocratic and wrong.
That’s the view of Romsave – a group trying to stop mass development on Romsey’s doorstep after Test Valley Borough Council leader, Ian Carr refused to delay the start time of a crucial council meeting when controversial plans to build 1,300 homes on farmland at Whitenap will be decided.
Romsave chairman, Simon Curtis wrote to Mr Carr asking him to consider starting the full council meeting on Thursday, July 24 at 5.30pm, instead of 4pm, to allow as many members of the public as possible to attend the debate on the Revised Borough Local Plan.
Mr Curtis said in his letter: “An important meeting such as this open to the public, to be held at a time within the normal working day, would appear, to the cynical eye, to be set to preclude many members of the public from attending. It is also likely to exclude many members of your own council. “The level of feeling in Romsey against the Revised Local Plan, shared by the townspeople, Romsey Town Council and Romsey Extra is such that the number of those making comment or objection to the proposals over the last two consultation periods has increased, not diminished as is normally the case in these processes.”
An angry Mr Curtis added: “Despite this Test Valley Borough Council appear determined to press on with what appears to be an undemocratic course by continually ignoring the wishes of the town and its authorities. Romsave would like to ask why the meeting has been set for this time? Has it been set at this time to specifically exclude members of the public who may wish to be in attendance? Has it been set to assist the process by excluding councillors opposing views to the Revised Local Plan proposals?” He said a full council meeting held in January to discuss the Borough Revised Local Plan started at 5.30pm so he can’t see why the meeting on the 24th can’t start at that time too.
Fellow Romsave member Richard Buss is also fuming. He said: “This is our last chance to tell Test Valley Borough Council what we think of their plan. It is almost unbelievable that after three rounds of public consultation, each one with rising opposition, that TVBC are ignoring the views of over 2,000 people who all agree this plan is unsound. This plan simply doesn’t have the support of anyone, apart from the council and the few landowners and developers they seem to be appeasing.” Like his colleague, Mr Buss believes it was a deliberate ploy by Mr Carr to deter councillors from attending the meeting.
“It is known that many councillors cannot make the 4pm start time. It seems this is a council which does not want to face the public indignation again,” said Mr Buss. Hundreds of protesters attended a council meeting in January when the plans were last debated. Responding to Romsave’s request, Mr Carr said: “As the time of the meeting is being held at the normal time for a full council meeting and on its normal cycle, I am not willing to accede the request for a change of time.”
Romsey’s Tadburn ward borough councillor, Mark Cooper, who is vehemently opposed to the planned Whitenap development, said Mr Carr’s stance was nothing new.
“Over the years I have asked the borough to bring the timings of meetings in line, both informally and formally, through requests at council meetings and they have refused,” said a disappointed Councillor Cooper adding that all public meetings other than full council are held at 5.30pm.