Hucknall Whyburn Farm campaigner slams Ashfield Independents for 'not giving a fig about democracy'
Campaigners against proposals to build 3,000 new homes on Hucknall green belt at Whyburn Farm have accused the Ashfield Independents of ‘not giving a fig’ about democracy.
The hard-hitting comments came after a full council meeting on December 2 at which a petition from the Hucknall Against Whyburn Farm Development group containing more than 7,600 signatures, was officially accepted and moved for debate by the council’s cabinet next month.
But campaigners were angry that instead of the expected debate, the meeting turned into, as they put it, ‘the Ashfield Independents show’ with only three Ashfield Independent councillors being chosen to speak.
The three – Dave Shaw, John Wilmott and Lee Waters, who all represent Hucknall North – all spoke in favour of the petition and against the proposals for development on Whyburn Farm.
But campaigners were frustrated that Labour and Conservative councillors from Hucknall, who wanted to speak, were ignored.
Petition organiser Mandy Shaw formally presented the petition to the council and spoke for five minutes, outlining the group’s argument against the proposals and receiving a round of applause from her supporters afterwards.
The three Ashfield Independent councillors then spoke before the petition was moved for cabinet – which has just one Hucknall representative in Coun John Wilmott.
Jemma Chambers, founder of Hucknall Against Whyburn Farm Development Group, said: “If I’d have walked in off the street without any background I’d probably have thought nothing of the meeting and that it was a good outcome for Hucknall.
“Not when you lift the lid and know who is who.
“In response to Mandy’s five-minute speech, there was a 15-minute debate for the councillors, with a five-minute maximum per speaker.
"The councillors wanting to speak put their hands up and the chair chooses the speakers.
"I saw hands go up from at least six councillors across parties, all Hucknall.
"The first councillor stood up before being asked, was rightly reprimanded by the chair but then went for it anyway.
"The next two were then chosen and all three were in support of our petition and recommended it go to cabinet.
"But they also all went on to blame housing targets and said they have no choice.
“You could say this is a positive outcome – the petition was carried forward.
"But it wasn’t a debate, it was a biased, orchestrated show.
“The chair was from the Ashfield Independents and he selected three Ashfield Independent voices, despite the petition being from an apolitical group and councillors from all parties wanting to speak and needing to be heard.
"They were clearly rehearsed, even down to who went first.
“When Chris Baron (Con) argued that the debate was unbalanced, the chair decided he hadn’t seen his hand shoot up.
"I was in the middle, a very similar view to the chair, and it went up first, yet he wasn’t selected to speak.
“It was the Ashfield Independents show – who gives a flying fig about democracy?
“Despite the very obvious political differences, there was overwhelming opposition to the draft local plan from the Ashfield Independent councillors Dave Shaw, John Wilmott and Lee Waters, long with continued opposition from Couns Lauren Mitchell and Keir Morrison (both Lab, both Hucknall South) and Couns Chris Barron, Kevin Rostance and Phil Rostance (all Con, all Hucknall West).
"We really hope the Ashfield Independents who said they would oppose this plan stay true to their word, put aside their political differences and vote against the draft plan with others representing Hucknall and Sutton when the time comes.
“A few people have asked if I’d ever run for councillor.
"I’m not cut out for the job, but even if I were, my answer after witnessing the pathetic attempt at controlling what is meant to be a democracy, leaves my answer being a short, sharp no.
The only part I’ll have in it is for campaigning for what’s right as a member of the community, and I’ll visit the ballot box instead, as I always do.
"Roll on May 2023 – it has to change.”
Coun Jason Zadrozny (Ash Ind), council leader, said: “At last night’s meeting, we were pleased to thank the residents of Hucknall for their passion and vigour.
"By the council accepting Coun Waters and Coun Shaw’s motion, their campaign has made significant progress and I’d have thought that both the Conservatives and Labour would have welcomed this.
"The motion will now be discussed at the next cabinet meeting.
"Petitions received by council, according to the Constitution are followed by a 15-minute debate.
"The ruling was actually written by Chris Baron, when he was Labour leader of the council.
“At the meeting, both Labour councillor Lauren Mitchell and Conservative councillor Kevin Rostance spoke for five minutes setting out their position on the Notice of Motion.
"So it’s completely untrue to suggest that they didn’t get the chance to have their say – they did.
"With regards to the 15-minute debate following the petition – it is up to the chairman of the council who speaks and in what order.
Couns Shaw, Waters and Wilmott have all been vociferously against the Government-enforced plans from day one.
"It’s no wonder they were able to catch the chairman’s eye before any other councillor – that’s the way it works.”
“The successful motion, proposed by Coun Lee Waters and seconded by Coun Dave Shaw is that this council accepts this petition and that it is submitted to cabinet to become a formal part of the consultation on the local plan and properly considered as part of their deliberations.”.