A public consultation into parking permits could be declared ‘null and void’ after politicians sent out a document that could influence people’s responses, a meeting heard on Monday.
Berkhamsted Town Council has drawn up plans for two residents-only parking zones around the town’s train station and Charles Street.
A public consultation on the proposals was due to begin tomorrow (Wednesday) but the first forms about the plans, which were sent out on Friday, were attached to a press release detailing proposals for a new multi-storey car park.
Members of the council last night (Monday) said they were ‘outraged’ that they had heard nothing about the release before it was sent out.
Councillor Tom Ritchie said he was ‘amazed’ that the press release had been included before a council working party formed to discuss the permits had been notified.
He said: “If it had been some members would have said that it risks making the consultation null and void by attempting to influence the result.”
Ivor Eisenstadt, speaking on behalf of 92 Berkhamsted businesses, suggested the car park plan was included to ‘sway the responses’ to the permits survey without any guarantee it would actually go ahead.
Meeting chairman Ron Cowie said he did not understand why the release issued by Dacorum Borough Council had been attached to a Berkhamsted Town Council consultation document.
Town and borough councillor Stephen Bateman tried to silence the objecting councillors by saying that the agenda for the meeting was just to note the consultation documents.He said they were not allowed to discuss their pros and cons.
Councillor Garrick Stevens said: “This is outrageous. We have had five months to raise this issue and it has been squashed.”
Councillor David Collins reprimanded Stephen Bateman for trying to suppress the council’s debate despite turning up to its meetings ‘only occasionally’.
Mr Ritchie said: “We are asked to note something that supposedly our working party has submitted and we did not in the working party discuss this item, so its inclusion is inappropriate.”
Mr Cowie, also the town’s mayor, said: “There’s no intention to ignore or ride roughshod over the wishes of the citizens of Berkhamsted by anybody associated with this project.”
Councillor Ian Reay said: “It is too late to go back on that decision, because the process is now running.
“I think we should be celebrating the fact that the council is prepared to build a multi-storey car park. It is good news and we should be grateful for that.”
After the meeting, Mr Eisenstadt and others said they were seeking legal advice about whether to take action against Berkhamsted Town Council for not following its procedures.