Despite the frequently repeated assertions by Government ministers, including the Prime Minister, that ‘the result of the referendum was clear. It was legitimate’, it is patently obvious that this mantra does not apply to members of Arun District Council.
Over the last few months, we have been told on numerous occasions that the electorate has made its decision and it must be abided by.
Many of Arun’s districts, including Clymping, where I live, have held referenda to consider the adoption of Local Neighbourhood Plans. All were adopted by large majorities, many of them far greater than the 52-48 per cent split nationally.
However, in Arun, the will of the people seemingly counts for nothing. We are told that in addition to councillors rolling over at the first mention of ‘the Inspector’ and agreeing to whatever numbers of new houses he proposes, they are going to find extra space for areas such as Worthing and Chichester where they have a ‘housing shortage’.
Director for planning, Mr Karl Roberts, might feel ‘comfortable with what we have put forward’ but has the council sought the views of residents whose towns and villages will be blighted by his proposals? Oh yes, of course they have, in the local referenda. And they had their answers, too. If these results are to be ignored, perhaps Arun might care to refund to local taxpayers the money which was wasted on the polls?
I would suggest that the members of the planning committee and their officers give some genuine consideration to the people who they either represent or, in the case of employees, pay them through their council taxes. I note from last week’s Bognor Observer that the majority of the planning committee are Conservatives.
Given the fact that every local MP, including Nick Gibb, voted in favour of accepting the vote of the national referendum and clearly believe that the results of referenda should be binding, shouldn’t the party’s local representatives show a similar faith in the views of the electorate?
Or maybe in Arun we don’t have democracy but hypocrisy?