ACCUSATIONS of secrecy surrounding Chichester’s local plan were strongly denied ahead of a public consultation.
Council leader Heather Caird hit back at claims from Chichester West councillor Clare Apel that there was a ‘lack of transparency’ over the process.
“I really don’t believe this hasn’t been a transparent exercise,” said Cllr Caird.
“I think every step of the way we’ve involved all the members and communities.”
She said it was a difficult balancing act but she believed the plan was ‘fair and honest’.
“I’m disappointed if anybody really believes this has been an underhanded effort or not a transparent effort by the council to do its job,” she said.
Work on the blueprint for the district’s future until 2029 has come to a climax in recent months, with a public consultation held and a public government inquiry in the autumn.
Cllr Apel told the full council meeting on Monday: “I feel the public are quite baffled by the process and lack of transparency.”
She called for an easy-to-read ‘readers’ digest’ version.
“I think we owe this to our communities who will be affected by the local plan,” she said.
The plan was considered by the inspector in the autumn and several changes have been made ahead of a new public consultation in January.
The council’s updated plan proposes 435 new homes per year – still short of the council’s objectively-assessed housing target of around 575.
The council now intends for the plan to be reviewed in five years to see its housing need is met. It is hoped by then more will be known about A27 changes and sewage infrastructure.
Harting councillor Andrew Shaxson said he supported the review, saying: “I think the inspector is probably looking for that.”
Following an article in last week’s Observer, the council reassured residents neighbourhood plans would remain vital for the future of communities.
They said a change stating neighbourhood plans ‘may’ be used instead of ‘will’ to inform development was only made because not all parishes had prepared neighbourhood plans and it did not imply neighbourhood plans were any less significant.