THE borough council has made a U-turn on its decision to continue holding council meetings, after it was accused of trying to push through a major housing development proposal and putting people at risk.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council had decided to continue holding its committee meetings, including its development control meeting on Tuesday this week to discuss the Manydown application.

The plans would see 3,200 homes built on land off Roman Road and Worting Road, near Winklebury.

However, Councillor David Potter, who sits on the development control committee, called on the council to cancel meetings to protect the public, staff and councillors.

This morning, the council announced the meeting would no longer go ahead.  

It is not yet known if other meetings will also be cancelled.  

Cllr Potter labelled the council as “unbelievable and irresponsible” for its initial decision to go ahead with the meeting, despite government advice on social distancing.

The Basingstoke and Deane Independent Group councillor would not have been able to attend because of his age and having had heart problems.  

He added: “This is an unnecessary and unjustified meeting.

“As the landowner the council is in effect intent on giving to itself, this long overdue development planning approval having wasted years up to now in getting to this point.

“It will expect all other venues where people who know nothing about each other to shut down as per Government instruction, but at the same time is intent on drawing together councillors, staff and the public with all the associated risks purely for self-indulgent reasons.

“Even Boris is concerned about his own news conferences. This is madness and people are not taking the issue seriously.”

Cllr Potter sent an email to all councillors, putting pressure on the leader to stop the meetings going ahead.

He added: “I would not want to think that as a result of a meeting of council or a committee an additional burden was put on the overworked staff of the NHS already struggling with inadequate resources.”

The Manydown plans would see two primary schools also built on the land, a secondary school, open spaces including a country park, indoor sports facility and provision for five permanent gypsy and traveller pitches.

On its website, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council has a list of services affected because of coronavirus.

Only two are affected – Parklands reception which is closed, and health walks which have been cancelled until further notice.

It states: “Council services are, in the main, operating as normal.”

A statement from council leader Councillor Ken Rhatigan, sent on Saturday, was adamant that advice from the Secretary of State said it is essential for planning and licensing decisions to continue.

However, the council has now changed its mind and said this morning that the development control meeting is now cancelled.

A statement from the council is due to be sent soon.