At the Aldingbourne Parish Council meeting on February 5, I asked our local representatives what news there was of the study ADC had commissioned into re-routing the A29.
The response was a shock: parish councils had been given just two weeks to comment on a stakeholder document from the consultants.
ADC had instructed them NOT to share it with the public and refused them more time.
This had clearly placed our councils in a very difficult position: They are there to represent local people, they know this is a matter of grave local concern and they would have welcomed informed comment.
They had also been threatened by ADC that if they released this ‘stakeholder’ document to the public, other documents would not be shared with them.
This is intolerable.
It could also lead to a great waste of public money.
The government is encouraging democratic engagement through the localism agenda and neighbourhood planning.
Society expects transparency from public bodies – local government and NHS included.
Parish councils are our most local and accessible form of democratic engagement.
Local councillors are volunteers and they deserve proper respect: documents with reasonable time to study and consult parishioners in order to inform response.
How can parish councils properly fulfil their role without the ability to talk with people in the community about such an important matter?
I asked ADC for a copy and was told it was not appropriate as it was only a draft working document.
But that is exactly when well-informed local input is needed.
Refusing to share information at such a key point gives rise to suspicion:there may be nothing of consequence in this document, but the fact ADC refused to allow councillors to share it is making residents wonder whether it is because the brief consultants have been given for the A29 scheme has ‘drifted’ from that presented for public consultation as part of the draft local plan.
Had ADC asked parishes to share it, without publicity, and collate locate comments, it would have enabled informal public engagement without fuss.
A ‘stakeholder’ document for comment should be shared with stakeholders.
The local residents in the affected areas, including properly-constituted amenity societies such as the Villages Action Group, are THE main stakeholders in this case.
All residents of Arun are paying for this study.
It should address issues raised by local people.
We must have better working together, more open-ness and transparency between ADC and our communities, for the benefit of the whole district.
Villages Action Group