LETTER: Ignorant of the public mood

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Planning supremo Cllr Vickers will chair her Planning Policy Advisory Group (PPAG) on Thursday March 5 and the main item on the agenda is to consider where another 2,000 houses should go in the district to meet the government inspector’s demands.

At its meeting of Council on 23 September 2011 Horsham District Council (HDC) adopted and voted upon its Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) which allowed the public, parish councillors and the press to attend meetings of the strategic planning group.

However Cllr Vickers, upon her appointment to the cabinet by leader Cllr Ray Dawe following the sudden and shock departure of Cllr Howard, immediately moved PPAG into secret session.

Cllr Vickers told this newspaper (30.06.13): ‘Since becoming the cabinet member for living and working communities, I have realised that we need to be able to have a more open and frank debate at our Strategic Planning Advisory Group meetings. I have therefore decided that we will no longer be holding SPAG meetings in public, as per other advisory groups of Horsham District Council.’

And despite the Horsham Society and residents calling for a public meeting to consider Cllr Vickers’ housing plan residents were unilaterally denied such a meeting.

During a ‘live Facebook chat’ on 8 October 2013 Cllr Vickers said in answer to the question as to why she was refusing to hold a public meeting: ‘I have found that constructive debates that I’ve been holding with smaller groups of people have been more beneficial than having a large scale public meeting, which is invariably dominated by those with the loudest voices.’

It is easy for weak councillors to go along with the party whip when the public don’t hear their councillors speak and see how they voted.

And so I wrote to chief executive Mr Crowley to ask if the public would be able to attend Cllr Vickers’ PPAG meeting.

I was told in writing ‘The Planning Policy Advisory Group does not meet in public. Decisions on this matter will be a matter for Council on March 18. That meeting is open to all to attend and the Council agenda and papers will be available the week before. As you know it is also possible for members of the public to register to speak and/or ask questions at the Council meeting.’

Cllr Vickers is wilfully ignorant of the public mood and she and the cabinet cabal have learnt nothing of the example that was made of Mrs Croft and Mr Rae when they were dumped as council candidates for the forthcoming May elections.

Horsham Conservative Association must now step in again and ditch Cllr Vickers as their candidate for May 7 to put an end to her omnipotent behaviour over planning in our district once and for all. If they don’t do it then the public will do it for them.

Dr GEOFFREY RICHARDSON

Tennyson Close, Horsham