Courier 12 October 2001 Page 2

Deadline to speak is impossible to meet

A member of Telephone House Neighbours' Association in Tunbridge Wells has criticised the council for its rules on speaking at meetings.
Annemarie Topliss wanted to raise points about the controversial development of the Church Road building at Tuesday's full council meeting [ 9 October 2001 ].

But she was told by mayor Melvyn Howell her wish to speak had not been registered within the statutory four working days. *
The association claims it could not keep to the deadline because of the council's two-day delay in supplying an agenda, which they did not receive until Friday [ 5 October 2001 ].

Mr Howell agreed to take the questions surrounding Telephone House reports and a demand for an independent inquiry at the next meeting in December.

Commander George Lawson said council officers should have realised the deadline was "impossible to meet" and tried to "retrieve the situation".
He added: "Is it not time that the council overhauled its working practices to ensure that the democratic process is not undermined by bureaucratic incompetence."

Committee and members services manager Mike McGeary said public speakers' deadlines were set for research and comprehensive replies.
"As committee member responsible for council meetings I was totally unaware that the group wished to raise these issues at Tuesday's meeting."
"In the future I would say any member of the public who wishes to ask a question at full council meetings does not have to wait for publication of the agendas."

Crest Homes won its appeal to build 43 flats on the former BT offices in July 2001 following a three-day inquiry in May 2001.

The association claimed the plans were over-dense and would spoil surrounding streets but Government inspector Malcolm Lewis disagreed the two blocks facing York Road would appear cluttered or uncharacteristic.

* to raise a question at a full Council meeting, three days' notice is required.

Speeches of Members of the Telephone House Neighbours Association, Councillors and the MP

A guide through Tunbridge Wells Local Press since August 2000 - "The Telephone House Debacle"