10th Dec, 2016

Coventry Council's 'bizzare, undemocratic' rules see Green Belt petition blocked

Coventry Editorial 17th Feb, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

A GREEN Belt petition has been blocked after falling foul of Coventry council’s ‘undemocratic’ rules.

Labour Council leaders rejected a petition calling for a longer public consultation period than just six weeks on Local Plan housing proposals.

Opponents have branded the Council rule ‘bizzare’ and ‘undemocratic’ as it prevents the public from petitioning on important issues – if it has already been ‘considered’ by full council within six months.

Conservative campaigner Gary Ridley had tried to set up a petition on the Council website when he was told the Council “will not accept petitions dealing with any matter which has been considered by the Council within the previous six months.”

Mr Ridley said: “This dismissive policy smacks of arrogance and contempt for the people who actually elect councillors.

“If they won’t accept a petition on the Green Belt what’s the point of responding to their sham consultation anyway?

“What a kick in the teeth for the hard-working taxpayers of Coventry.”

The petition, now set up on independent website www.change.org, calls for the public consultation to be extended beyond the six-week legal minimum to three months.

Outraged campaigners argue the ‘disgraceful’ six weeks’ timescale is not long enough for people to have their say on the controversial proposals to build more than 6,000 homes on Green Belt in Keresley and Eastern Green.

Tory group leader and ward councillor for Wainbody, Coun John Bundell, said the Council’s decision is simply a way of preventing any ‘meaningful discussion’ on the issue with a petition.

He added: “They don’t want the embarrassment of having the issues aired in public.

“It’s totally undemocratic – they are using a technical issue to block something people care passionately about and are concerned about.

“At the end of the day, all we can do as the opposition is highlight the way Labour councillors are behaving.”

The Council’s ability to exclude petitions in this way was introduced in July 2012 after councillors claimed they had been inundated with petitions.

Full council voted through the changes, which also stated the Leader of the Council would have final say on the rejection of any ‘vexatious’ petitions.

Accusing the Council of following an agenda of ‘shutting down debate’, Mr Ridley added: “Just like the Combined Authority, like the closure of the 50 metre swimming pool, the opinions of residents are being ignored.

“This ‘consultation’ is lip service – it is not long enough, it is not thorough enough, and it is frankly not good enough.”

Ruling Labour councillors insist they will listen to public concerns and there will be more opportunities to debate before the final Local Plan is approved.

They have pointed to Conservatives’ previous proposals to build on the Green Belt when they controlled the council before 2010, subject to then Labour government planning rules.

Residents have until Monday, February 29 to visit www.coventry.gov.uk to take part in Council consultation.

The petition can be found online at www.change.org