Chairman calls police after verbal confrontation during council meeting

JPCT 270613 Official opening of th West Sussex County Times new offices. Chairman of Horsham District Council Philip Circus. Photo by Derek Martin

JPCT 270613 Official opening of th West Sussex County Times new offices. Chairman of Horsham District Council Philip Circus. Photo by Derek Martin

The chairman of the council called the police after a verbal confrontation with a member of the public at a meeting tonight (Wednesday December 11).

During public questions at Horsham District Council’s full council meeting resident Geoffrey Richardson felt Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater), cabinet member for living and working communities, had not answered his question on housing policy.

When Dr Richardson continued to press Mrs Vickers for an answer, Philip Circus (Con, Chanctonbury), chairman of HDC, intervened, sparking a verbal confrontation between the two from opposite ends of the council chamber.

An angry Dr Richardson shouted: “You can throw me out, I have not had an answer.”

Mr Circus then retorted: “You are not showing respect.”

Dr Richardson interrupted: “You are not showing me respect. We pay for you to be where you are.”

The chairman then adjourned the meeting and when it resumed Mr Cirucs told the public he would not hesitate to call the police if anything similar occurred.

He said: “Show some respect for the office of the chairman and for the council.”

He continued: “We have been in contact with the police and I will not hesitate to call them in.”

The original question from Dr Richardson was whether a free vote would be allowed on the preferred housing strategy when it comes before the council in the spring of 2014.

Mrs Vickers said later in the meeting that she had no power to give a free vote as a mere cabinet member. She also stated that no agreement had been reached between HDC and Liberty Property Trust ‘formal or otherwise’ on proposals to build 2,500 houses and a new business park north of the A264.

The North Horsham scheme was included in HDC’s draft preferred strategy, and an eight-week public consultation period ended in mid-October.

The full council meeting was asked to note a report summarising the 1,861 responses to the consultation, of which 1,420 related directly to the North Horsham development.

Sheila Matthews (Ind, Henfield) said: “With the greater population I asssume the vast silent majority support the way Horsham District Council is evolving and becoming the place to be. I take that as a good sign.”

However Peter Burgess (Con, Holbrook West) countered: “To get that number actually responding is huge and we should pay great attention to what is said. I would like to ensure this council takes that number of people into account.”

Mrs Vickers told the meeting that the eight-week consultation period was non-statutory and showed the council’s commitment to listening to residents.

She thanked the respondents for writing in and said that further decisions on the housing strategy would be made in a public forum.




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