Residents of Petworth fear their views are being brushed aside in public consultation on the neighbourhood plan which will dictate the future of the town.
With mounting concern the Petworth Residents Networking Group is stepping up its campaign to get its voice heard. A letter calling for support is going to every home in the town.
The group was formed two years ago: “We felt our concerns and opinions were being ignored by the town council along with other official organisations,” said Lynnette Humphry speaking on behalf of members. There are now more than 70 members and Lynnette is urging more residents to show their strength of feeling.
The biggest fear is over housing sites for the 150 homes earmarked for the town.
“The town council, South Downs National Park (SDNP), landowners and business community, all seem to be dictating the future of our community and the residents are not fully aware of the scale of housing which has been scheduled,” she said in the letter.
“The sites being progressed have deviated, with little or no explanation, from those proposed to the consultation. The groups have not been fully transparent and we need to ensure we are to be represented in the correct manner.”
Residents are concerned the views of the business community, visitors and tourists were taken, in consultation, ahead of residents.
“Although the town council have announced the preferred option for housing to the south of the town there has been no independent verification of the results,” said Lynnette.
She said residents had asked the council to verify their results but had been told due to ‘data protection’ it was unable to confirm only votes from residents were counted.
She said residents wanted to have confidence in those planning the town’s future: “It is very clear, however, there is unrest and the residents are not all agreeable to the decision making of the town council and SDNPA.”
Chairman of the town council Chris Kemp said: “I am totally content the process followed has been carried out with the highest level of objectivity and transparency. Ms Humphry’s requests for further validation of the questionnaire cannot be agreed to without redacting the personal information contained in them. She has been offered the chance to organise this herself, but has refused on cost grounds.”
Douglas Cooper, chairman of the Petworth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group said: “I am disappointed to learn that Lynnette Humphry, a member of the housing working group should be attempting to form an opposing group, particularly based on mistaken and inaccurate information.
“I do hope that it is merely a coincidence that Ms Humphry’s address is to the South of the town where the public have chosen sites for possible housing development, but sad that as a member of the Housing Working group she may not have been able to set aside her personal interests in the larger interests of the town.”
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