VILLAGERS have accused a select few in Hempsted of trying to run the new neighbourhood area forum like ‘dictators’.
Hempsted has been granted neighbourhood area status, giving residents more power over what happens to their community, particularly in the face of future big developments.
But the group which has put itself forward to run the neighbourhood area has been criticised for allowing a minimum of just three committee members to take decisions and for giving itself the power to remove residents from the forum if they choose to.
One resident described the Hempsted Community Forum as being ‘more dictatorial than democratic in nature’ when Gloucester City Council’s planning committee approved the creation of the new area at a meeting last week.
The concerns were borne out by councillors who have deferred taking a decision on allowing the Hempsted Community Forum to run the show.
Councillor Andy Lewis (C, Quedgeley Severn Vale) said: “It seems a little one-sided to me. Everyone should be able to have their say. There are some real problems with the way the forum is set up.”
Councillor Mary Smith (L, Robinswood) said: “The thought that three people can make decisions for everyone in the area and if they don’t like your views they can just vote you off is just wrong.”
The new forum, the first of its kind in Gloucester, has been described as being on par with a parish council in terms of its powers.
They will pass judgement on planning applications, for example, before they go before the city council’s planning committee.
Steve Loughlan, chairman of the Hempsted Community Forum, watched on as councillors expressed their concerns about his newly-formed group but he was barred from speaking at the meeting because he had not earlier indicated his intentions to do so.
He will instead speak at the next meeting of the committee in February when the plans are expected to go before councillors again.
Steve Loughlan, chairman of the Hempsted Community Forum, said: “I am very pleased that the neighbourhood area has been approved. We as a forum have accepted the recommended changes to the constitution and we will be stronger for it.
"We are committed to putting in 2,500 hours of voluntary work. We believe there are many opportunities to improve the quality of life and increase employment opportunities. For the first time Hempsted has one strong voice.”
Neighbourhood planning officer Clare Haslam, from Gloucester City Council, said: “We must look at the desirability of the forum and that it is representing the people in the area.”
She added that the group had been very co-operative and that planning law training would be offered to its committee members to make its decision-making more robust.