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Council resists further call to postpone public consultations

North Lanarkshire Council is resisting a call to re-run public consultation processes crucial to the future of Shotts.

Two consultations were running simultaneously, the “A Vision for Shotts” consultation closed earlier this month, while the other was to help determine a location for a proposed town hub, one of eight such hubs planned for North Lanarkshire.

Louise Murphy, who was born in Shotts and owns a house there, had previously called for an extension to the consultations claiming that not enough residents knew they were taking place.

Louise, a Conservative councillor in the town of Worthing, on the south coast of England, highlighted the matters on a Facebook page and says the number of people who subsequently responded vindicates her claims that not enough residents knew about the widespread changes which are set to take place.

She told Lanarkshire Live: “I am from Shotts originally. It’s a really close knit but rural community and the impression I get is that people like the rural nature and its heritage.

“There is a phenomenal amount of development going on and planned for Shotts. The level of awareness was not what it should be. There were two consultations going on but who knew?

“The timing isn’t brilliant as we’re in the middle of a global pandemic.

“The vision put forward for Shotts, if approved, will have a fundamental impact on the nature and character of the town.

The council have ticked a box with the consultations.”

Last month, Louise claimed the council was using the pandemic to avoid a proper consultation process as by-elections were able to be held safely. She fears the plans for Shotts will be pushed through with the council “using Covid as an excuse”.

Only 30 responses to the consultation had been received by April 1, according to Louise, despite the fact it had been running for several weeks. She and others in the community encouraged people to have their say. Several hundred people engaged with the consultation in its final week.

People may have a look and think the vision is the best thing for the town, but the problem is that the level of awareness was less than poor. No one that I spoke to was aware the consultations were going on, she added.

Neither does she believe that the level and type of the Shotts consultations meets the threshold of good governance, and transparency.

Scottish Government guidance states that any consultation should be carried out early, that it should be meaningful and should be proportionate,” said Louise. “I’ve spoken to individuals and a couple of community organisations and, as far as I’m aware, everyone is singing the same tune; ‘please postpone the consultations until you can hold in-person meetings’.

“Not everyone has access to the internet for a start, and it’s not the easiest consultation to navigate. Even the questions posed in parts of it are very vague.”

She is now calling not only for a rethink on the council’s most recent consultations, but on the process overall.

Louise continued: “The local plan for North Lanarkshire from 2019 is sitting with the Scottish Government waiting approval, there were only 404 responses from a population of around 340,000. That’s 0.1 per cent of the population – ridiculously low.”

A spokesperson for North Lanarkshire Council, said: “Due to the pandemic we were unable to host face-to-face consultation meetings. However, the public consultations were widely promoted and the videos explaining the town hub proposals were put on the council’s website allowing people to view them at a time convenient to each individual.

“The consultations ran for several weeks and people were able to complete a survey expressing their opinions on the potential location for each hub. These consultations included a series of public briefings, which were attended by over 600 people across the council area, and a series of surveys which attracted over 3000 responses.”

 

Article originally appeared on the Daily Record.

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