Skate park discussions held in secret

STEYNING Parish Council has defended its right to hold an extraordinary meeting on its skatepark plans in secret.

Some residents have highlighted the fact the closed meeting on Monday night came just six days after new laws on openness and transparency of councils.

But council clerk Sue Booth said the nature of the business was confidential and it was right that press and public be excluded.

Chairman Philip Bowell notified councillors of the two items on the agenda - to agree action on the continued high level of correspondence regarding the skateboard facility and other issues, and to discuss the way forward on the council’s planning application regarding the Village Green.

Trevor Cree, of Jarvis Lane, said the Local Audit and Accountability Act would help to ensure everyone could move forward to a time of greatly increased openness and transparency in local politics.

He added: “Within days of the act becoming law, Steyning Parish Council have decided to hold a meeting on the controversial MPF skatepark that will exclude both the public and the press.”

Friends of Memorial Playing Field also highlighted the new regulations, which permit the recording and videoing of any council meeting.

A statement issued by the council said: “Steyning Parish Council is embracing the new regulations regarding the recording of public meetings, but the official record of any meeting will still be the signed and approved minutes.”

The decision to hold the extraordinary meeting had nothing to do with the act becoming law.

“Councillors are acting responsibly, in the interests of the whole community, and in keeping with standing orders, holding a confidential meeting to protect the names of members of the public and to discuss legal issues regarding the skate-park that come under legal privilege.”