Strength of interest in this issue is a good thing

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Havant’s deputy leader says proposals to redevelop the town centre were only meant to spark a debate.

Yet it sounds like he and his council colleagues were unprepared for the floodgates to be opened.

If they’ve been surprised by the outpouring of public criticism surrounding the East Street regeneration scheme, they should ask themselves why.

When you ask people to take part in a consultation process, you can’t complain when they take you at your word, irrespective of whether you agree with their comments or not.

The strength of feeling surrounding this issue shows how much the people of Havant care about the future of their town and that should never be seen as a negative thing.

While councillors might be unwilling to admit in public that the public consultation could have been handled better, there must be those who can at least acknowledge that point in private.

Even if you put the merits of these early ideas to one side, there were always likely to be those who found just the suggestion of moving the war memorial distasteful.

And the absence of any council officers from last month’s public meeting organised to discuss the scheme will also be viewed by some as a mistake.

So while we respect David Guest’s pleas for residents to accept that none of these ideas are yet set in stone, it’s also vital that he and his colleagues understand that the people of Havant have a right to their opinion too.

If people have got the wrong end of the stick then it’s the council’s job to do all it can to put them right.

We’re pleased to hear Mr Guest’s promise that the council will analyse feedback from the public consultation, and we back his appeal for people to tell councillors what they do want to see in future, not just concentrate on what they don’t like.

We’re sure everyone recognises the need for improvements to be made – but there’s still a long way to go before any definite plans can be decided.