Storm over observatory in memory of Sir Patrick Moore

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PLANS for an observatory in Selsey in memory of Sir Patrick Moore have attracted opposition – with some residents claiming it is being planned in the wrong place.

Residents stormed out of a council meeting, ‘disgusted’ by perceived disrespectful councillors after a heated discussion.

About 60 residents crowded into a Selsey Town Council meeting to hear a decision on Selsey Coastal Protection’s request for permission to use land on the Oval Field for the observatory in memory of one of the town’s most recognisable figures.

Mike Beal, council chairman, told residents it would be single storey, with three telescopes and space for people to bring their own telescopes, would use less than ten per cent of the field and might include a small cafe and toilets.

It was not a planning application, but a request for Selsey Town Council to endorse the concept so the trust could get funds to create a feasibility study and planning application. But residents were concerned about potential opening hours, loss of open space, the size of a cafe and parking, all of which would be looked at as part of the feasibility study.

Some said they could not understand how the council could endorse something they had no plans for and others said they were disappointed they had not received any information about the idea.

Cllr Beal told residents the idea was one of several included in the neighbourhood plan, which residents were in favour of.

“I think it’s completely the wrong location for it,” one resident said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Another said: “It seems the whole thing has been bulldozed along which is not a democratic process.”

Two stormed out, with one saying: “It’s a waste of time”

Another said: “You have no respect for the people here.”

Many residents were concerned the trust’s website included plans for the observatory from 2011, which included a cafe and much greater detail than that presented in the council meeting.

Cllr Carol Purnell said it was important for the trust to be able to create funds to carry out coastal defence projects, such as those which are currently protecting the sea wall near Oval Field.

The option of building the observatory at East Beach car park was raised by residents, but Cllr Beal said that was not council-owned and Cllr Purnell said all the residents there would make the same complaints.

Cllr Ben Cooper said it could be an iconic building for Selsey, especially as it will soon lose its boathouse.

“If we could create something that’s iconic and encourages people to come to Selsey, why not? It’s a wonderful place, let’s encourage people to come here.”

The town council voted to allow

the use of the land, subject to a full options study investigating other location options, the amount of land being restricted to ten per cent of the field, the plans being approved by the town council and full and implementable planning permission.