Manchester City Council

Cheshire East Council

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Council political leaders issue joint statement condemning abuse and threats from public ahead of controversial planning decision

A district council's party political leaders last month took the unusual step of issuing a joint statement over the "increasing level of threats, aggression and intimidation" councillors and officers have faced, ahead of a committee meeting that was scheduled to discuss a controversial planning application.

Leaders of the Liberal Democrat Group, Conservative group, Labour Group and the Independent Councillors Group at Three Rivers District Council said there is a "right and healthy way to debate and express strongly held views and a wrong way".

The planning committee was set to make a decision on the planning application for a warehouse development in Maple Cross. The plans include two buildings which total 16,115sqm.

According to reports, some residents are strongly opposed to the plans.

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The planning committee meeting for the first application of the warehouses in 2019 saw approximately 200 attendees, the Hertfordshire Mercury reported.

The joint statement read: "Feelings frequently run high in politics, especially when a contentious issue is on the table before us such as the Maple Cross warehouse planning application which comes before the council's planning committee tonight (Thursday 21 October). The freedom to express our opinions is the absolute cornerstone of a healthy democracy in which elected representatives stand accountable to the public for their decisions.

"As local leaders of different parties we welcome debate and peaceful protest from those who disagree with us. We welcome robust scrutiny, informed debate and ultimately the chance for voters to hold us accountable at the ballot box.

"Council employees are just that, local government officers whose function is day to day administration of the council, providing services, and people who are simply doing their job. 

"The strength of public feeling on the Maple Cross planning application is loud and clear and to be welcomed. But there is a right and healthy way to debate and express strongly held views and a wrong way.

"As much as our viewpoints may differ on this or any other issue, we are nevertheless united by a vested interest and the aim of serving our local community, a community where we have made our homes and in many cases raised families.

"The increasing level of threats, aggression and intimidation faced on a daily basis, both by local councillors and officers of this council—online, by telephone, and face to face—is unacceptable and there can be no justifiable excuse for it whatsoever.

"That is why we have jointly come together ahead of tonight's meeting, putting aside any political differences, to highlight our concerns publicly, to urge restraint and say enough is enough. Please treat others as you would yourself wish to be treated—with respect and tolerance."

Councillors voted to defer the decision at the 21 October meeting. The council has yet to decide on the plans.

Adam Carey

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