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Police called after tempers flare in housing debate

Police outside the council meeting
Police outside the council meeting

Police were called to a heated council meeting amid reports of a disturbance after tempers flared during a debate.

Between 100 and 150 people attended West Lancashire Council’s cabinet meeting where councillors were discussing the first draft of the Local Plan, which sets out how the borough will develop over time and where new homes, employment sites and retail and leisure facilities should be situated.

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It includes proposals to build hundreds of homes in Appley Bridge and Up Holland.

A council spokesman said the discussion about the Local Plan was brought forward so it was the first item on the agenda.

A motion to approve the Local Plan Preferred Options document for wide public consultation was passed, with the six-week consultation due to start in October.

But after this was discussed, there was a disturbance during the meeting and the police were called.

The spokesman said: “The progress of the meeting was disrupted following the conclusion of the Local Plan item and cabinet was unable to continue with the other important items of business.

“Requests were made to those attending to not interrupt the meeting so other matters on the agenda could be dealt with, but some continued to disturb the progress of the meeting.

“The council has a responsibility to ensure a safe environment and effective arrangements for meetings and to assist in this and to prevent any continued disturbance the police were called.

“Once the police arrived, people began to disperse and those that remained allowed the meeting to continue to its conclusion with minimal interruption.”

A spokesman for Lancashire Police confirmed they were called just after 7.30pm to a public order incident with “a report that some people were shouting and arguing”.

No offences were recorded and no arrests were made.

Independent councillors from Our West Lancashire accused Labour of failing “to properly address legitimate questions from residents about the forthcoming Local Plan consultation”.

Coun Ian Davis said: “Residents asked how a proper consultation could be held when the newspaper the council intends to use isn’t circulated in areas such as Bickerstaffe and Appley Bridge where significant housing developments are proposed – no answer was forthcoming.”

Resident Ian Rigby, who posed questions of the councillors, said: “It was clear that the events of Tuesday evening only arose out of the anger felt at the cabinet’s disregard of the concerns raised, even when confirmed by their officers.

“It is another nail in the coffin of our democratic process when we have elected members failing to take seriously the concerns of those that elected them.”

The council spokesman said the consultation on the Local Plan will start on Wednesday, October 12.

He said: “Further details will be announced shortly and the council welcomes the views of people living and working in West

Lancashire.

“All reasonable views will be considered, but people who attend any public consultation events must behave in an acceptable manner or otherwise staff will not be able to answer their questions and those of other people attending.”