FORMAL complaints have been lodged by furious Graffham villagers who claim the debate on controversial plans for new homes was ‘undemocratic’ and ‘chaotic’.
After the debate at Chichester District Council (CDC) residents registered their disgust and chief executive Diane Shepherd announced there would be an investigation.
At best this was sheer incompetence, at worst it was deliberate manipulation until they had reached the conclusion which they desired.”
But villagers have continued to bombard the council with letters expressing horror, astonishment and outrage and demanding an explanation.
Members of the planning committee were debating a plan from Reside Developments to demolish four cottages around the Homes of Rest in Graffham and replace them with five new houses.
Initially, councillors voted by 12-3 to refuse the application.
But after this, said onlooker John Uphill, who serves on Graffham Parish Council, the meeting descended into chaos.
Mr Uphill said the chairman, after ‘secret discussion’ with the planning officers, suggested the vote be split into sections.
“From this point both the public and most of the councillors seemed quite confused as to what they were now voting on.”
He said members of the public were left feeling the process was ‘undemocratic’ and the officers and chairman seemed to be trying to effect a decision along the lines of the officer recommendation of approval.
Fellow villager Hugh Brown has called for action against those who allowed the ‘astonishing’ discussion to take place.
“At best this was sheer incompetence,” he told CDC, “at worst it was deliberate manipulation until they had reached the conclusion which they desired.”
Derek Stewart Smith said one member commented that Reside would appeal a refusal.
“This immediately casts doubt on the decision making process at the meeting,” he said.
“The members must not be seen to be reacting to influence or pressure from the applicant.”
A spokesman for Chichester District Council said the investigation ‘would be concluded shortly’.