Council accused of ‘shutting the public up’

Coun Roger Gambba-Jones.
Coun Roger Gambba-Jones.
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South Holland District Council stands accused of “trying to shut the public up” after barring residents’ comments from all planning applications published on its website.

The accusation comes from parish councillor and former district councillor Jenny Rowe, who used to sit on South Holland’s planning committee, after comments were deleted from the EnergyPark Sutton Bridge application for a gasifier power station at Sutton Bridge.

But a district council spokesman says residents’ comments and objections can still be viewed at the offices in Priory Road, Spalding, and they are following the example of many other councils that don’t publish them online.

Coun Rowe said the council had claimed that adding residents’ comments was taking up too much officer time and made a policy change in January.

She said: “I have checked the EnergyPark Sutton Bridge application and all parishioners’ comments have been removed – officers haven’t got the time to put them on the website, however they have managed to have the time to take them off.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous and it’s a way of just trying to shut the public up.

“They have had so many letters of objection to planning applications and also the decisions they have made and they just can’t handle it.”

Fellow Sutton Bridge parish councillor Phil Scarlett said: “This change in process without notification to the public or parish councils is a major concern as it demonstrates a lack of transparency within the planning function.”

Planning committee chairman Coun Roger Gambba-Jones said the step was taken because a small number of people were abusing the system by making argumentative and irrelevant comments – sometimes complaining about, arguing with or criticising someone else who had commented – and it was taking up too much officer time to investigate.

He said: “Unfortunately, the few have spoiled it for the many.”