An accusation that fencing was placed around beach huts in Felpham during a pre-election period when district councillors could not object has been dismissed by the chief executive.
The fencing was put up in April to protect the grassy area in front of the huts from dog fouling – but there was criticism from locals that they had not been consulted.
The issue was raised at an Arun District Council meeting where Lynne Jones, from Felpham, asked for the fencing to be taken down.
She said: “They were erected without prior notice or any authorisation, planning application or planning permission. They were erected without any consultation with the public or the parish council.”
Mrs Jones said the fencing made the area look like it was private land.
Describing it as an ‘eyesore’ and a ‘blot on the beautiful Felpham seascape’, she added that it was now difficult for people with mobility issues to get into the site and that people who sat on the memorial benches to gaze at the sea ‘now see that view through what is effectively a prison cell’.
Matt Stanley (Lib Dem, Marine) blamed the previous administration for the decision to put up the fencing.
While adding that he understood the frustration felt by residents, he said nothing unlawful had happened and there had been a ‘notable reduction in dog waste’ in the area.
But Paul English (Con, Felpham East) said work to install the fencing had been ‘deliberately carried out during purdah’ when councillors could have ‘no say whatsoever in restricting’ the decision.
Purdah is the sensitive period before an election when there are limits to what councillors can and cannot do or say.
When this was denied by chief executive Nigel Lynn, Mr English said he had submitted complaints at the time and had been ‘advised by senior officers not to cause an issue because it could be misconstrued and I could have been held in jeopardy because of purdah’.
Mr Lynn told him: “If you’ve got any evidence that it was deliberately done during purdah I would be happy to receive that information.”
Nothing was said about whether the fencing would be removed.