Positive comments only for East Cambs District Council suggests Westwell of Ely

COLUMN: Rosemary Westwell asks ‘are we really in the Christmas spirit this year?’

COLUMN: Rosemary Westwell asks ‘are we really in the Christmas spirit this year?’ - Credit: Archant

Our planning system appears to be transparent and fair. There seems little one can do to disrupt the democratic process, or to cover up anything untoward.

However, there is always someone who wants to go too far. I was visited by a man clutching an iPad. He did not introduce himself nor did he say who he was representing. He simply said he wanted to ask about a particular development in the village.

I told him I objected to it and he would upset a lot of villagers if he were to build on one of our only green spaces left.

He made no comment on his iPad. I asked him who he was and who he represented and he finally told me.

What’s wrong with that, you ask? It seems that around this date there were a number of comments made on the East Cambs District Council website about this site.

And when I last saw them, they were all positive and had obviously been encouraged by the developer’s representative with his iPad.

There was a statement beneath each that said that the person putting in the response was doing it off their own free will, or words to that extent.

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However, one local claimed that she was approached and asked to fill in a comment to send to the ECDC website on the iPad of the visiting gentleman.

She complained that when she wanted to tick the object box, the site or his iPad would not let her.

I tried to access the comments recently and although the ECDC website said to click on the ‘document tab’ to read the letters, clicking on the tab produced zilch.

Whatever the cause of these faults, is it right that someone unannounced should visit you in person and watch you while you feed a comment into a particular website only if it is positive?

If they were being perfectly fair, they would have also accepted the negative comments too.

In certain circumstances, when reviewing an event, for example, including only positive comments may appear to be wrong and make the review incomplete in a similar way.

However, criticism here can easily be made by omission. If there are four stars in a production and one of them is not mentioned, it is obvious that something was wrong. Their performance was not the best or the reviewer is incompetent and forgot to mention them.

However, a consultation is not asking for a review, it is asking for comments from individuals whom we assume will comment for themselves and by themselves.

Will ECDC have the strength to declare the ‘personally encouraged votes in favour’ invalid? I wonder