LOCAL DEMOCRACY AT RISK?

Will vital Full Council Meeting happen behind closed doors?

The next stage of the MSDC’s Sites Allocation DPD, (which could lead to the green fields South of Folders Lane being destroyed for housing), should have been a meeting of the full Council on April 1st.

This meeting would have been open to the public, and the opportunity for all the councillors from Burgess Hill to have their say, not just those on the Scrutiny Committee. They could have proposed that sites SA12 and SA13 be removed from the list, with a vote and questions from the public.

This meeting was cancelled due to the Coronavirus lockdown, and has been provisionally rescheduled for May 13th, a delay of six weeks.

We wrote to MSDC asking what this means for the next round of consultation. Assuming the timetable they’d planned is the amount of time required for due process to be followed, the start of the consultation should also be delayed.

Sally Blomfield, Divisional Leader of Planning, responded:
the government has made new legal arrangements in these exceptional times for local authorities to continue to operate committee meetings through the Coronavirus Act 2020, and Mid Sussex District Council is reviewing the situation and timetable of all meetings“.

We have two main concerns with this:

We’re worried that MSDC will start holding important meetings behind closed doors or “online” only. This will disenfranchise anyone who is not computer savvy enough to participate, with serious consequences for local democracy.

In addition, MSDC could try to shorten the consultation period or the time allowed for review, making the process even more unsound than it already is.

13th May is next week, and still no word on if / how the Full Council meeting goes ahead.

We’ll keep you posted

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