‘Why couldn’t we speak up?’

Campaigners’ questions could not be put to Honiton councillors at extraordinary meeting.

Battle lines have been drawn between campaigners and Honiton Town Council.

A row has broken out after the council declined to let the campaigners speak at an extraordinary meeting last week.

Ken Sherman, the chairman of the Northcote Lane Area Residents’ Association, and council tax payer Syd Taylor wanted to put a question to councillors over the proposed community centre development.

Although the meeting was called to discuss the Local Development Framework, an item appeared on the agenda relating to the possible submission of a planning application for the �2 million project. The council says it is not legally obliged to let the public ask questions at meetings and that it does not normally meet in August.

Mr Sherman and Mr Tayor wanted to make five statements relating to alleged oversights about the proposed development before posing the question: Are council members aware of the mentioned oversights?

But they were told it would not be possible for them to speak at the meeting.

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“I am very disappointed,” Mr Sherman told the Midweek Herald.

“We were told our question was nothing to do with the Local Development Framework, but the community centre was on the agenda.”

Mr Taylor said: “We felt it was a rather sneaky way to raise the plan - as item 5 on the agenda.

“We were told the council has no obligation to allow questions to be asked.”

The campaigners claim the cost of compiling five business plans for the centre have not been revealed and say the council is pressing ahead with plans for the building - even though a town poll came out against the project.

They allege local democracy is in a state of decline, because of their inability to address councillors.

Now copies of their statements and question are to be made available to every councillor and they hope to raise the matter at the next full meeting of the council in September.

Honiton Town Council said in a statement: “The council does not normally meet in August and the agenda was, therefore, kept to a minimum, with the only other item being an update on progress with plans for the community complex.

“This item was deferred to a future meeting pending further discussion by East Devon District Council.

“Although it is not a legal requirement to provide for public questions at full town council meetings, the town council is of the opinion that there should be an opportunity at full council meetings for the public to ask questions and questions to the meeting are welcomed on a monthly basis.

“Members of the public are also welcome to submit written questions for the town council to the town clerk at any time and the town clerk is available to discuss town council policy during public opening hours.”