Residents accused of bullying behaviour

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RESIDENTS’ behaviour has been condemned as ‘intimidating’ and ‘bullying’.

Following a Chichester District Council meeting, a letter was written by Cllr Andrew Smith to apologise for the behaviour of several objectors.

Cllr Smith wrote the letter after the planning committee, of which he is chairman, gave the go ahead for 15 homes in Crooked Lane, Birdham. It is alleged objectors to the site ‘verbally abused’ residents who supported the plan.

Marie Geary spoke in favour of the application, and spoke out after the meeting.

“The behaviour really throughout the meeting was unacceptable,” she said.

“There were other people there trying to listen with them booing and hissing.

“Some people who wanted to speak at the meeting were too intimidated by them.”

She said after the meeting she and others were subject to verbal abuse.

At the meeting, on November 12, speaking in support of the application for 15 affordable homes, she said: “I hope to see my grandchildren grow up in a village called Birdham that I call home.”

Mrs Cheeseman, another Birdham resident who spoke in favour of the application, said: “There was an outrage 30 years ago when social housing was built, but everything settled down and it will settle down again.”

She said there is a misconception about social housing.

“All my neighbours are working, they’re not all on benefits, and there are no problems,” she said.

After the meeting, planning committee chairman Andrew Smith wrote an article entitled Standing up to bullying on his online blog.

“It came to my notice that the two ladies from Birdham who spoke in favour of the application were subject to intimidating verbal abuse when the public left the meeting after the planning committee had voted by nine votes to eight in favour of the application,” he said.

“As chairman of the committee I’ve written to both these ladies condemning the behaviour of some Birdham residents.

“Whilst it is recognised that planning applications can rouse strong emotions people should not be intimidated from expressing their point of view.

“Officers of the district council have also been subject to abuse.”

He added: “A large number of Birdham residents who opposed the development attended the meeting.”

Those in opposition to the scheme also spoke out against bullying of any kind.

A spokesman from Birdham Village Residents’ Association said the group was opposed to abusive behaviour.

“We do not condone this sort of action,” he said.

The application, which has caused a stir in the village for a number of years, was approved in a vote which saw nine councillors vote for the development and eight vote against it.