Plans to cut public speaking are slammed

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Proposals to restrict public speaking at Peak District National Park Authority meetings have been slammed as ‘Draconian’ by a leading county councillor.

Cllr Simon Spencer has spoken out against the recommendations, which he fears are a blow to democracy in action.

He said: “At the moment the authority is at the top of the list for allowing members of the public to express their views. But by adopting the recommendations in this report, they go to the bottom.”

The biggest change the report proposes is limiting the number of speakers on planning applications and traffic regulation orders to a maximum of six people – with three objectors and three supporters allowed.

Jim Dixon, chief executive of the Peak District National Park Authority, has hit back at the claims, though.

He said: “These recommendations are all about fairness, timing and efficiency. We must be fairer to the people who cannot attend a committee but send their views in writing and their comments should carry just as much weight as those who can speak in person.”

“Also, when you have a large number of speakers there is a tendency to repeat points and bring in extraneous issues. A limit on the number of speakers would force people to be more concise and to collaborate on the points they want to make.”

But this reasoning has done little to assure Cllr Spencer who cited the controversial Hartington Cheese Factory proposals as an example of why he is worried.

Cllr Spencer said: “At that meeting approximately 23 people spoke out against the proposals – all with different, concise and relevant points.

“That could not happen if these recommendations were in force. I honestly believe they are Draconian.”

Mr Dixon contended that, at a time of severe budget cuts for the authority, the proposals were “entirely reasonable” to achieve a more “businesslike approach”.

The proposals will be debated and voted on at a meeting on Friday, December 7, at Aldern House in Bakewell.