Public could be forced to listen to South Somerset homes council meeting from staff canteen
MEMBERS of the public could be barred from a council chamber for an important meeting and forced to listen to the proceedings from the staff canteen.
Next Thursday, South Somerset District Council 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.
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The arrangement has been criticised by campaigners against the council's Local Plan.
Sandra Snelling, of the East Coker Preservation Trust which opposes up to 2,500 homes being allocated to the south of Yeovil, said she is expecting a big turnout to the meeting.
She said: "I am absolutely amazed to hear that the council intend to exclude members of the public from the council chamber at the full council meeting on January 17.
"I find it difficult to believe that on this particular occasion when such a controversial proposal is to be debated and put to councillors that the public should be denied their full democratic rights.
"We are hoping to have a full turn out from the parish of East Coker who wish to hear about the council's submission to the Planning Inspectorate regarding the proposed urban extension, and if any of our representations have been taken into account.
"We also want to be able to see and hear what the councillors have to say about it, particularly those who represent us on the council.
"I intend taking this matter further."
South Somerset District Council has previously held crunch meetings in larger venues around Yeovil.
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."