Protesters rallied outside a parish meeting in Steyning to oppose a referendum called for by an action group over the future of a playing field.
Friends of the Memorial Playing Field (F0MPF) and others fighting to protect what they call the town’s ‘jewel in the crown’ from a skatepark development were among those gathered in Springwells, in High Street. Supporters of Steyning Parish Council’s skatepark application stood in protest outside the hotel, holding a banner marked ‘MPF skatepark’.
Protester Mike Kelly said that the parish meeting was ‘undemocratic’ and a ‘sham’.
“The FoMPF has not consulted with the councillors, which is usually the norm for parish meetings, and no councillors will be present to check the validity of those attending. As a group of residents we were concerned at the undemocratic nature of it.
“We believe the meeting was a total sham.”
Mr Kelly also claimed that the Springwells venue was too small to accommodate all the residents wishing to attend; there was a lack of advertising; that the original question submitted for the referendum was unfairly biased; and that the time chosen was not suitable for parents with children.
Due to the high numbers in attendance the meeting was adjourned from Springwells and changed to a larger premises at Toad Lodge in Newham Lane, Steyning.
FoMPF member Paul Campbell said: “Far from being undemocratic, this meeting was fully democratic but the Skatepark Supporters Group (SSG) refused to engage in it.”
In an official FoMPF statement, a representative said: “Claims by the SSG that the meeting had not been properly advertised and had been arranged at an unsuitable time for those with children are baseless. The law requires that the meeting should be after 6pm, and that it should be advertised for not fewer than seven days by a single notice in a public place.
“Attempts to agree the wording for the referendum were also spurned by the SSG. The Friends, however, had listened to comments made by the SSG on their Facebook page and so we put to the meeting an amended proposal.”
The motion was unanimously agreed with 107 votes, calling a referendum with the question ‘Do you want the parish council to build a skatepark on The Memorial Playing Field (The Cricket Field)?’.
Horsham District Council will now organise the ballot, which is expected to take place in a month’s time at the Steyning Centre.