A Chichester city councillor has criticised MP Andrew Tyrie for holding ‘secret meetings’ on the A27.
Cllr Sarah Sharp told Wednesday night’s meeting that Mr Tyrie hosting private meetings with parish and district councillors, which were not open to the public or press, only added to ill feeling around the transparency of the whole A27 project.
It came as Chichester City Council joined many parish councils in the district by formally backing a consultation re-run.
Referring to a question from resident Chas Hammerton as to whether Mr Tyrie should have held unminuted meetings in Chichester on January 20, Green councillor Sharp said: “I would like to share Mr Hammerton and many other people’s grave concerns about meetings held in private.
“These meetings were in public buildings and these are representatives of the people, I just can’t believe after all that’s gone before, no sharing with the people who voted for you was made.
“There’s a lack of transparency, that people have no idea how Mr Tyrie is going to vote.
“It’s clear what Chichester District Council thinks and West Sussex County Council.
“As I understand it all three have to agree to a new consultation for it to happen.
“When you speak to people whose houses are going to be knocked down and we don’t know what Andrew Tyrie is thinking even now, he’s still sitting on the fence.
“There’s fear, and I’m very sad that it’s got so divisive, but by holding secret meetings and not making it clear doesn’t make it easier for those people who can’t sleep at night.”
Her comments prompted an angry response from fellow councillor Martyn Bell, who accused cllr Sharp of using ‘inflammatory language’.
Cllr Bell said: “The meetings were held with elective representatives, chairman of our parish councils, and district councillors, all in Andrew Tyrie’s constituency.
“I do worry, of course going to hear some very strong concerns about any options going on.
“To accuse our MP of having secretive meetings I think is very unfair.”
Chichester Mayor Peter Budge told the meeting he had attended both meetings and that Mr Tyrie had listened to the views of council representatives without giving an opinion.
As reported, the Observer’s requests to attend the meetings went unanswered by Andrew Tyrie’s office, and despite repeated requests for comment, the last statement to this newspaper came in early January when a spokesman said ‘Andrew Tyrie will not be commenting on the A27 at this time’.
There was some debate at Wednesday’s meeting before city councillors decided that backing a new consultation was not in conflict to its earlier formal response to the previous consultation to back Option 1A, with alterations.
City councillor Tony Dignum, who is also leader of Chichester District Council, said: “What was proposed by the district council (to back a new consultation) was not in conflict with what the district council agreed in September.
“With what options were on the table in September, we voted for Option 2 with substantial mitigations.
“And then the district council at the meeting last month, decided to ask for a re-run of the consultation and also for the results of the first consultation to be published.
“We didn’t remove our support for the only options on the table when we went for Option 2, there’s no conflict between the two.”
Cllr Nigel Galloway said: “When we did meet and backed Option 1A, we chose it as the best of a bad bunch.
“At that stage Highways England were making it clear it was an on-line consultation only.
“But the goalposts have changed since then, they changed when (Transport Secretary) Mr Grayling came to Chichester and made his comments that he might reconsider a re-run if there was support from the district, county council and the MP. “I think in the interest of transparency and in view of the fact that many, many people in this area believe that a northern option was at some stage on the cards...and it was removed without a proper explanation as to why.
“So I would like to see all the options, including off-line options, going out to consultation again, in the interests of transparency.
“It doesn’t commit this council in any way to supporting a northern bypass, we start with a clean sheet and a level playing field.”
He added that Option 2, which includes building a new ‘Stockbridge Link Road’, would be a ‘disaster environmentally’.
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