A meeting to discuss the controversial restoration of Midhurst’s South Pond had to be abandoned when anger boiled over at the Grange Leisure Centre last night (Wednesday, September 28).
Fury erupted when some 130 people arrived expecting to sit down to a chaired question and answer session with Chichester District Council, which owns the pond, South Downs National Park representatives and South Pond volunteers. Instead there was an exhibition with officers and volunteers on hand to explain the work.
As tension mounted angry resident Bill Griffin banged a table and said: “This is chaos, we want to make our voices heard. We want to speak to people and no-one here has a clue.”
He told the Observer: “We needed people in authority here to be able to tell them how we feel, the pond is disgusting.”
As tempers flared district councillor Steve Morley stepped in to halt the session and promised a chaired public meeting.
He told the Observer: “There has been a total misunderstanding about the format of this meeting. Peopled wanted to know how they could progress the restoration of the pond to something more akin to the aspirations of the different groups. I am sure this can be achieved. But unfortunately there didn’t seem to be a vehicle to take this forward and it created a great deal of frustration.” Steve had to climb onto a window sill in the crowded room to make himself heard and told people a public meeting would be held in the next three to four weeks.
The issue came to a head after a petition organised by Mel Bilham and Linda Bateson signed by more than 600 people called for a public debate on the controversial restoration.
Linda said: “We told them they had upset a lot of people and the evening has proved our point. They wouldn’t listen to us and now it has brought home to them that something has got to be done about the pond. It is dreadful and it is making us so angry.”
Mel added: “They tried to shout us down when we attended South Pond meetings and now they realise we won’t be fobbed off. We want a proper pond where people can relax and look at the water, not a biodiversity experiment.”
She added: “Unfortunately when tempers flared staff at the Grange got the brunt of it from some people and we would like to apologise to them and appeal for calm as we plan the next meeting.”
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