In their handling of the transit travellers’ site in Westhampnett, Diane Shepherd and Chichester District Council have demonstrated a lack of understanding as to what constitutes a ‘consultative process’.
The term implies that interested parties will have a say in the outcome of the matter in hand, whereas Ms Shepherd and the district council had clearly predetermined that, regardless of residents’ objections, the site would be approved.
While Ms Shepherd stated that it was ‘our right to be heard’, it is evident that she does not believe that the opinion of Westhampnett residents, expressed forcefully at a public meeting on December 9 and in a petition against the site – is of any import whatsoever.
Both she and Chichester District Council – with the exception of Councillors Andrew Smith and Anne Scicluna, who voted against the proposals – have demonstrated scant regard for the residents of Westhampnett. Of course, one should not expect Ms Shepherd, as an unelected, over-promoted and overpaid panjandrum, to have any empathy for the residents within her bailiwick, but given that the councillors are elected through a democratic process, one would have hoped that they at least would have had the decency to recognise that six residents in favour and 352 against does not constitute a mandate to proceed.
Indeed, the council’s behaviour in minimising the timeframe for residents – and the parish council – to express those concerns by deliberately withholding the fact that Stane Street had been identified as a potential, let alone conclusive, locus for the transit camp until the last possible moment is indicative of their general contempt for the parish.
As we rail at the lack of democracy in countries such as North Korea, perhaps in the first instance we should address matters closer to home.
Dr Windsor Holden