We were sent the following Press Release by the WLBC Labour Group.
Last night’s Cabinet Meeting of West Lancashire Borough Council saw unprecedented scenes when around 100 residents turned up to protest, having been misled by the ‘Our West Lancashire’ political party as to the nature of the meeting and draft proposals for the next Local Plan.
Our West Lancashire leader, Cllr Adrian Owens, sat there laughing while council officers and cabinet members were yelled at and abused by the angry crowd.
As a councillor of nearly 20 years standing, most of that time in the previous Conservative Administration, Cllr Owens knows full well that the structure of Cabinet Meetings are not the democratic forum in which residents can best have their say.
That can be done in other council meetings and through the consultation process for the Local Plan, which many residents have now been put off participating in due to Cllr Owens’s deliberate scaremongering.
In his previous role as Deputy Leader of the Conservatives, Cllr Owens was responsible for the current Local Plan, including the decision to remove land at Parrs Lane from the greenbelt, the uncontrolled spread of HMO conversions in Ormskirk, and the development of Yew Tree Farm in Burscough, where he completely ignored the rejection of the site in the Burscough Parish referendum.
With such a track record, for him to now mislead residents on both the consultation process and proposals for the next Local Plan shows utter contempt for the public and is deeply undemocratic.
It was unfortunate that the Police were called to last night’s meeting but when council officers going about their daily work fear for their personal safety then something is seriously wrong with the conduct of some members of the public.
The Leader of the Council was spat on, councillors were abused and officers were intimidated, so it is right that their safety is protected by police intervention where necessary, as with any walk of life or work.
However, it must also be said that many of the residents in attendance were appalled at the behaviour of the crowd and at being mislead by Our West Lancashire. Speaking to Cabinet Members directly, they were disgusted that they had been encouraged to attend a meeting under false pretences and to discover that the information they had been given about the draft Local Plan was distorted to serve the political ambitions of Cllr Owens.
Cllr John Hodson, Cabinet Member for Planning said, “Never when Labour were in opposition did we encourage or engage in spitting or intimidation or behaviour which is frankly unacceptable, and it is now incumbent on Cllr Owens to fully and publicly condemn such conduct and apologise to Council Officers.
“To pursue Cllr. Owens’s approach to the Local Plan would be to risk the Department for Local Government taking the Local Plan out of our hands and determining it centrally without adequate local input.
“Last night was the decision of Cabinet to go out to public consultation in order to allow the public their input – the very opposite of Cllr Owens’s position.
“I make the pledge to come and speak with and listen to any group of residents who wish to discuss the proposals in a full and frank manner which is respectful of all involved”
Full details on the Local Plan, the draft proposal, its process and how members of the public can engage in it can be found by following the links at: www.westlancs.gov.uk/planning/planning-policy/the-local-plan.aspx