The Conservatives have criticised a “spurious” decision to prevent the public’s concerns about three “greenfield” sites in Brighton and Hove being aired at a council meeting.
Councillor Steve Bell is so angry that he has written an open letter about it to Geoff Raw, the chief executive of Brighton and Hove City Council.
He said that the three petitions had each garnered more than 1,250 signatures and should be presented at the next full council meeting on Thursday 22 October.
They relate to sites in Benfield Valley, Whitehawk Hill, including Ingleside Stables, and land in Patcham at Horsdean Recreation Ground and Ladies Mile.
But, according to the letter, mayor Alan Robins has refused to accept the petitions about the council’s strategic blueprint – known as City Plan Part 2 – on advice from officials.
In his letter to Mr Raw, Councillor Bell wrote: “We are advised that one of the reasons was that ‘planning issues are not normally debated at council as there are other avenues for concerns to be raised and considered’.
“This is an unconstitutional reason to refuse the petitions. The petition scheme only excludes petitions that apply to a planning application. City Plan Part 2 is not a planning application. It is a policy document.
“You authorised and convened a special council meeting on Thursday 23 April that was dedicated to City Plan Part 2.
“Petitions instigated as a consequence of that council meeting should not be refused debate unless it is now deemed that the April special council was inappropriate to hold and as such should render the decisions taken as unlawful and invalid.
“Another reason given to us was that council had already approved City Plan Part 2. That, respectfully, is a nonsense.
“Council approved consultation. It did not approve the plan as presented unless of course there is now an admission that the consultation is merely a ‘tick box’ process because the council has no interest in the consultation outcome.
“In any respect, it contradicts the position that council does not consider ‘planning issues’.
“It was also advised that the petitions had been rejected because a consultation process was in progress. That again is a nonsense. Petitions are part of public engagement.
“Council has many questions, letters, deputations and petitions presented to it (including debates) on subjects that are in a consultation phase.
“Are you in all seriousness advising that if the council is engaged in consultation that, during that process, no member or public engagement at council will be permitted?”
Councillor Bell also said that the decision to refuse to receive the petitions was “entirely inappropriate and unconstitutional and will only be viewed as having no foundation and undemocratic”.
He added: “You are denying thousands of ordinary members of the public a right to have their views and opinions expressed to the council.
“You will also be very aware that there is a degree of political debate and discord associated with this subject.
“Your intervention as the chief executive of the council to refuse to accept the petitions for debate, without constitutional cause, will be seen by many as politically motivated.
“That is a seriously dangerous place for the head of paid service to be.
“We trust that you will reconsider your position and facilitate the democratic process for the voices of this city’s citizens to be heard.”
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