The ruling self-styled Socialist group on Amber Valley Borough Council decided, with no justification, to limit public attendance at the Council meeting on 23 July to just 30 people. Residents from Belper, Pentrich, Ripley, Quarndon, Mackworth and even Allestree wanted to address the Council about the proposals for a significant increase in the number of houses to be included in its Core Strategy.
The self-styled Socialist administration had proposed 790 extra houses in the Alfreton Urban Area; 570 extra houses in the Belper Urban Area; 350 extra houses in the Ripley Urban Area; 80 extra houses in Langley Mill; and 470 extra houses in the rural areas of Quarndon and Mackworth.
No extra houses were proposed in Heanor where the Leader of the Council, Cllr Paul Jones, lives.
During the meeting Cllr Chris Emmas-Williams, the deputy Leader of the Council (who lives in Codnor – no extra houses) proposed a further 600 extra houses at Lily Street Farm, Swanwick. A total of an additional 2,860 houses. All this was in spite of the fact that Labour had consistently voted against the proposals of the previous Conservative administration which had identified Strategic Sites amounting to 4,850 dwellings.
The Socialist proposals added 12 extra sites to the current strategy – one of which would result in the loss of 100 jobs.
Not only were members of the public left standing on Ripley Market Place but even those who were allowed into the Council Chamber were restricted to a total of 20 minutes public speaking.
After the meeting Cllr Stuart Bradford, the leader of the Conservative opposition group, said that this sort of thing would never have happened under a Conservative administration. He said that on previous occasions when the Core Strategy had been on the Council’s agenda the Council chamber had been packed and the public speaking had been allowed to go on for over one hour. The only restriction put on numbers attending any Council meeting had only been because of concerns by officers over safety issues. The Conservatives had never restricted members of the public from attending meetings.
Those members of the public who were allowed to speak accused the Socialist administration of riding roughshod over local communities. Even the Labour Leader of Ripley Town Council, Cllr Freeborn and the Labour County Councillor for Ripley West and Heage, Cllr David Williams spoke against the proposals!
Cllr Kevin Buttery, the previous Conservative Chairman of Scrutiny, pointed out, after the meeting, that at the Council’s AGM the Labour Mayor, Cllr John Walker, stated that Council meetings would finish at 9.30 pm because he liked to be in bed by 10.00! This may be a source of amusement to those present at Council Meetings, but he is putting his own requirements before those of the communities he has been elected to serve. Elected Members should be allowed to fully debate Council issues, and if it takes till 10 o’clock, so be it.
After the meeting Cllr Alan Cox, Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group, condemned the Socialist Administration under Cllr Paul Jones, for not wanting to even hear the views of the electorate. They didn’t even want the electorate to hear the debate in the Council Chamber.