It was with absolute amazement that I read the piece ‘Two district councils meet to discuss plans for new market town’ (page 21 7th November).
Another meeting of the Strategic Planning Advisory Group (was SPAG now PPAG to confuse us) considering a matter of acute concern to Horsham residents was held in secret under the chairmanship of councillor Vickers.
I wrote to Mr Crowley (chief executive, Horsham District Council) on 21st October 2013 and subsequently copied it to all elected council members reminding him (and them) of the district council’s own policy in line with Government policy.
When councillor Vickers became chairman of SPAG she decided unilaterally to hold its meetings in secret totally ignoring the council policy agreed by all councillors.
‘Strategic Planning Advisory Group (SPAG) 3.8 The role of this group of elected Council Members is to advise and work with the Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning on planning policy issues. The membership of the group is cross-party and all Members of the Council can attend and receive the papers. The group meets on a regular basis and the meetings are open to the public. The meetings are advertised in the local newspapers and are generally attended by Parish and Neighbourhood Councils, developers and the press. As the meeting is public, it provides the community with an early opportunity to listen to the debate and discussion before the matters are discussed on a more formal basis through the Council system…’
I understand that a key agenda item of a forthcoming meeting of the Scrutiny and Overview Committee about the Planning Department – so critical to the future and nature of Horsham - will again be held in secret. This meeting should be held in public.
And now another SPAG/PPAG meeting with councillors from Mid Sussex District Council about a new West Sussex market town has been held in secret.
What on earth is going on in our council? I don’t see any comment in your pages by councillor Dawe, the council leader, to explain what is happening.
Mr Crowley, our chief executive, hasn’t answered the seven questions I raised in my letter of 21st October.
I think it is high time that the chairman of the council, councillor Philip Circus, as the conscience of the council, steps in and intervenes so that the council is not allowed to continue flouting the democratic process on matters which are of such importance to the electorate – strategic planning of housing in Horsham District.
Dr GEOFFREY RICHARDSON