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East Coker protesters target South Somerset homes meeting where public will listen from canteen

By WG_Yeovil  |  Posted: January 14, 2013

  • Protesters at a previous South Somerset District Council meeting

  • Sandra Snelling and Martin Sowerbutts of East Coker Preservation Trust

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PROTESTERS are going to demonstrate outside council offices in Yeovil this week over an "undemocratic" meeting.

Member of the public face being forced to listen to the proceedings of South Somerset District Council's full council meeting on Thursday via speakers in the staff canteen.

The authority will discuss revisions to its Local Plan – the blueprint which outlines the authority's preferred locations for the building of thousands of homes.

A large number of the public are expected to attend but there is limited space inside the council's Brympton Way offices.

A speaker system will be set up from the chamber to the adjoining canteen.

The arrangement has been criticised by campaigners against the council's Local Plan.

The East Coker Preservation Trust, which opposes up to 2,500 homes being allocated to the south of Yeovil, is planning the demonstration.

South Somerset District Council has previously held crunch meetings in larger venues around Yeovil.

In a call to protesters, the trust said they think the decisions at the meeting will be "unlawful".

A statement said: "Due to lack of space they intend to exclude most of the public from the ouncil chamber denying them their democratic right to hear and see the proceedings to endorse the Local Plan for forwarding to the Planning Inspector.

"Their idea is to set up an audio link in the canteen but this will not allow the public to see councillors and officers, and how they behave, how they debate or how they vote. As we know from past experience there are some very questionable antics at these meetings which need to be seen not just heard - these arrangements are unacceptable!"

They added: "In wars brave men and women have died to gain us our democratic rights – the very rights that the SSDC would now take from us. Don't let those men and women down."

The authority has defended its position.

A spokesman said: "It was felt that as the council were essentially dealing with minor amendments proposed to the Local Plan rather than going through the whole thing afresh, the council chamber and overspill area will be sufficient to accommodate those members of the public who wish to attend.

"We are re-arranging the council chamber so we can get as many of the public in as possible. Those in the overspill area will still be able to follow the proceedings although we appreciate they will not be able to see.

"We will ask the chairman to request that members make known who they are when speaking and voting so that people listening can identify who is saying what."

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