Coronavirus: Decision meeting on 195 new Hayling Island homes to go ahead despite Covid-19 fears
A COUNCIL has been accused of trying to rush the verdict on a contentious proposal for 195 new homes after confirming a decision meeting will go ahead in public – despite residents’ fears over the threat of coronavirus.
The criticism has been angled at Havant Borough Council, which will meet to decide whether to grant planning permission for the homes off Sinah Lane, Hayling Island, at 5pm next Thursday.
More than 530 public objections have been lodged against the plans since they were submitted by Barratt Homes in July, 2018.
But Anne Skennerton, chairman of the island's residents’ association, believes residents who played key roles in scrutinising them will now be worried about going to the meeting because of Covid-19.
‘Whilst it’s good they’re allowing the public in, conversely it’s not good in so far as the public of all ages are going to be extremely cautious and concerned about attending,’ Ms Skennerton said.
‘One can understand on a practical level why a council wishes to get on with its business, but what needs to be appreciated is the current situation is unique and unparalleled.
‘The government has gone to the extent of postponing all elections, so it doesn’t seem at all unreasonable for our council to postpone these long-awaited, far-reaching decisions until all the public to have the opportunity to attend, listen and make suitable deputations.’
A council spokeswoman said next week’s meeting will go ahead with ‘sufficiently reduced seating’ and will be streamed via Facebook for those who cannot attend.
But councillor Clare Satchwell, who is set to chair the meeting, warned it should be delayed ‘in the interest of democracy’.
It comes after a delayed multi-million-pound plan to adapt Hayling Island’s roads to deal with local plan congestion was quietly reinstated earlier this week.
Cllr Satchwell said: ‘I think it should be delayed until people fully get an opportunity to respond to the officers’ report.
‘We are in an unprecedented time where people are fearing for their lives.
‘To force people to have to think about life-affecting council decisions rather than being able to adhere with government advice is entirely unfair.’
The council also confirmed its cabinet and full council meetings – which will see a vote to progress the local plan – will both go ahead on Tuesday, at 2pm and 5pm respectively.
A spokeswoman said guidelines for social spacing will be ‘adhered to’ for people making deputations at all forthcoming meetings.
Councillor Tim Pike, cabinet lead for planning, regeneration and communities, said: ‘This is an unprecedented situation and our top priority is the health and wellbeing of residents, staff and councillors.
‘Every consideration has been taken in relation to holding these meetings and whilst they are meetings open to everyone, the public gallery is for viewing purposes only. I would encourage those not wishing to attend the meeting to watch the live stream via our Facebook page.’