Councillor’s attitude to debate likened to Asian dictatorship

Jacqui Maconachie, pictured right, has been criticised by Derrick Chester
Jacqui Maconachie, pictured right, has been criticised by Derrick Chester

A long-serving councillor has defended herself after it was claimed her attitude to public debate was ‘worthy of North Korea’.

Littlehampton town councillor Derrick Chester made a series of remarks on social media last week, with chairman of Arun District Council’s development control committee Jacqui Maconachie coming in for criticism.

Mr Chester’s democracy-themed Facebook post referred to a June committee decision, which significantly reduced the number of planning applications determined by councillors.

Council officers will now deal with most applications – where previously many would have been considered by councillors because of widespread objection from residents or parish councils.

The committee opted not to follow officer advice and refer the decision to full council – and later rejected plans to allow more public speakers for major applications.

Mrs Maconachie, who took on the role of chairman in June, backed both the committee’s decisions at the time.

Mr Chester wrote: “Jacqui has decades of public service before her, knowledge and experience.

“However her attitude to public debate and participation is worthy of North Korea rather than local government in the United Kingdom and they should have appointed a breath of fresh air.”

In response, Mrs Maconachie said shorter agendas would enable councillors to discuss applications in more detail.

She pointed to June’s committee meeting, where 37 speakers, each entitled to speak for three minutes, took part.

The Aldwick West councillor also claimed it was unfair to increase the number of public speakers as it would be disproportionate to that allowed for minor plans.

She said: “He (Mr Chester) is entitled to his opinion but as far as I am concerned it is all on the grounds of fairness and natural justice.

“Why should one planning application be considered more important than another?”

Mrs Maconachie apologised after referring to residents, who had attended a planning meeting in August, as a ‘rabble’.