BENEATH the idyllic setting of a West Sussex village, turmoil has been brewing over its future.
The creation of a neighbourhood plan for Rogate split the parish council down the middle at its annual general meeting.
At the meeting in the village hall on Wednesday, (May 29), Sara O’Brien-Twohig strongly advocated the acceptance of a village resident and expert in the field to lead the plan, following popular support at two previous public meetings.
However, she clashed with fellow councillor Paddy Cox, who questioned whether the parish council should have a greater hand in the plan.
At one point the meeting grew so heated the newly-elected chairman Elizabeth Brown had to call a brief halt to bring the councillors into line.
“I will not sit in this parish council as chair if people are going to interrupt each other,” she said.
“There’s been far too much disrespect of each other over a long period of time. It’s time we paid a great deal more respect to each other.
“Take the time and listen to each other. It becomes like a little group of youngsters misbehaving. We each disgrace ourselves by behaving like this. Can we behave like adults and listen to each other?”
Rogate had held two previous public meetings on the neighbourhood plan, both of which had been well attended by villagers.
“It was absolutely amazing,” said Cllr Brown of the previous meetings.
“I couldn’t believe people were standing outside half an hour before it was due to start. An enormous amount of enthusiasm came out of that.”
She added there had been people from all over the parish and said: “I personally thought it was an extremely well-represented group of people.” She said one man had stepped forward and volunteered to take on the neighbourhood plan and to help formulate it for the village.
She said at the second meeting there had been various discussions and it had been decided to appoint Rogate resident Paddy Walker as an ‘interim project leader’.
Mr Walker offered to fill the role as his company was involved in developing the Olympic village, Prince Charles’ Poundbury village and at present the Roussillon Barracks in Chichester.
“He will start the process moving as quickly as he can,” Cllr Brown said.
Mr Walker’s appointment was strongly supported by Cllr O’Brien-Twohig, who described him as ‘quite clearly the best candidate we were ever likely to get’. She also questioned the use of the word ‘interim’ to describe his role.
However parish councillor Paddy Cox questioned Mr Walker’s authority to lead the neighbourhood plan.
“There’s no getting away from it, this parish council is responsible for making sure this neighbourhood plan is conducted properly,” he said.
He proposed the council scheduled a meeting with the SDNPA so the council understood what its responsibilities were before going any further.
This proposal was met with disgruntlement by the assembled villagers who had gathered to listen to the meeting and there was support for the idea of Mr Walker starting work immediately.
However, the controversial agenda item eventually reached a conclusion after the chairman proposed to accommodate both ideas in a proposal which would see Paddy Walker accepted by the parish council as the interim project leader, but the parish council would also invite the SDNPA to give a talk on the plan.
“If we have unfortunately made a slight slip-up we will correct it,” she said.