How a Council persuades a conservation group to support the building of 4,000 houses on greenfields

According to this letter from Burgess Hill Town Council (BHTC) to a conservation group,  criticism of BHTC’s controversial housing strategy would not be tolerated and if it were to continue, Council funding would be withdrawn.

BHTC’s letter to the Chairman, Trustees and Officers of the voluntary conservation group, ‘The Friends of Green Circle Network’ (whose membership is 1,000+) is quite frankly shocking.

The following quote tells you all you need to know about how BHTC operates:

“The Friends Group cannot expect to continue to obtain money, assistance and construction for the Green Circle, whilst attacking the long term strategy of the three levels of councils who have adopted and are implementing Green Circle Network plans. It is in effect biting the hand that feeds. Such a relationship will be considered perverse, when its action is revealed, and cannot be expected to continue.”

The letter goes on to say:

“It is only fair, therefore, that the Green Circle Network also uses the same transparent, democratic methods as well, in helping its members to fully understand the complexities and implications of strategic planning and the objective of protecting our wildlife.”

The hypocrisy of BHTC asking Green Circle to “use the same transparent, democratic methods” as themselves is quite breathtaking, when you consider BHTC’s subsequent public “consultation” and questionnaire exercise regarding their ‘Town Wide Strategy’, which ended up with just 1.5% of the population of Burgess Hill saying ‘yes’ to a question that made no reference to 4,000 houses on greenfields whatsoever, and yet BHTC claim they have “strong local support” for their Town Wide Strategy and by default the 4,000 houses on greenfields.

The letter concludes with:

“The supply of full information by the Town Council to your members, with your endorsement, will regain the balance the debate desperately needs. A resolution to the crisis for our town can come from a correcting balance of information to your members, from Burgess Hill Town Council, delivered via your email list, to which we ask to be given access.”

BHTC in other words not only wanted to send their propaganda to Green Circle’s 1,000+ members, advising them to vote for 4,000 houses on green fields, but with the formal and explicit approval of Green Circle’s Chairman, Trustees and Officers. This would prove to be a massive U-turn by Green Circle, coming just after Green Circle’s Committee had chosen to advise their membership to vote ‘No’, against BHTC’s Town Wide Strategy.

One of the founder members, a highly principled, popular and longstanding Chairman of the Green Circle group, resigned shortly after BHTC’s public ‘consultation’ exercise and questionnaire was completed.  I wonder if BHTC’s letter and the reasons for the Chairman of the Green Circle’s resignation were connected? Perhaps the people at BHTC who wrote this appalling letter should be resigning?