The Communities March - The Death of Democracy
26 Feb 2013
Over 250 residents from West Parley, Wimborne, Colehill and other communities braved the freezing cold last night to march to the District Council meeting at Furzehill. The March - well covered by BBC TV News, Press and Radio - was called "The Death of Democracy" It was led by Kenny Pearce of West Parley and supported by the W.P. Parish Council and Residents Association. The East Dorset District Council Meeting at 6.30pm on 25 Feb was their final meeting to approve their green belt building plans (the "Core Strategy") They now go to the next stage, which will be an Examination in Public by an independent planning inspector in midsummer.
Why the "Death of Democracy?"
When a meeting of this kind was held some years ago, the District Council moved it at the request of residents to a larger auditorium. Some 300 attended and spoke for about an hour. Councillors caught the voice of their taxpayers and changed their policy to one of opposition to the then Labour Gov't green belt housing plans for West Parley. That was then, this is now. The present District Council (Leader Cllr Spencer Flower) has learned from this and determined not to repeat it. This time round they refused request from residents in Corfe Mullen, Wimborne and West Parley to have the meeting moved from the Council's small chamber at Furzehill.
Their Feb 25 meeting was the last of three - the first in 2011 to approve the Core Strategy Options, and the second in 2012 to approve the Core Strategy Plans. Believe it or not, both these meetings were held in Bournemouth, outside East Dorset, and at both meetings the public could attend but not speak at all. So this District Council has displayed a consistent dislike of normal local democracy – indeed has seemed afraid of it. Hence the Death of Democracy March.
The 250+ local residents marched peacefully and enjoyably from the Stocks Inn at Furzehill, ably escorted by friendly police, to the main door of the Council Offices. TV cameras covered every step. West Parley District Cllrs Barbara Manuel and John Wilson were on hand to meet them. Kenny Pearce addressed the gathering and led them in a question and answer session. TV, press and radio reporters interviewed many of the residents. In an otherwise restrained gathering, there was enough noise made at one point to remind the District Councillors inside - who was outside!
Most of the marchers then retired to pass a little time enjoyably at the Stocks Inn and then go home. A few - because there was little room - went in to hear the District Council meet. There were 5 speakers only allowed from the public, each with 5 minutes. Richard Heaslip, W.P.Council Chairman, spoke for West Parley. Please see his very interesting remarks.
As expected, the Core Strategy building plans were approved by the District Council to go to the next stage. But something had changed their mood from the 2011 and 2012 meetings when the plans were passed almost unanimously. This time the atmosphere was different. Even from those Cllrs who voted For, some of them said they were not happy with the oversized plans for West Parley and Wimborne. And 10 of them out of the 34 refused to vote for the plans. Could it have been the determination showed by the marchers?
If 10 of them are against it now, how many will that rise to as the next local elections approach ???