People participation is the essential element of democracy. At a meeting of the Conservative-led Amber Valley Borough Council on the March 28, however, local people were effectively denied the right to communicate their views on local issues of importance. How? The borough council stipulated that no topic touched on by the public during the past six months could be presented during the short period of public participation at the start of their council meetings.
Effectively denied their right to speak on their chosen topics, members of the public left the council meeting en-masse. Significantly, they included the leader of Ripley Town Council and several members of the town council as well as members of the public actively engaged with environmental issues.
This draconian ruling ignores the fact that there are on-going issues of great significance within this borough: changes in planning regulations with the potential to bring massive housing developments on our green spaces; a proposal for a second out of town supermarket for Ripley on land at Nottingham Road: the Ripley Gateway project.
A wealth of feeling and a variety of views and opinions surround these issues. These have a right of expression in a truly democratic political system. Furthermore, the borough authority have from the beginning shrouded developments relating to the Ripley Gateway project with a cloak of secrecy. More public discussion, no less, is demanded by these issues.
The council must become more responsive to its electorate, particularly in the light of the forthcoming local elections.