A SENIOR Barnsley Council cabinet member has been accused of silencing discussion on controversial plans to create a ‘doomed’ one-way road system to alleviate traffic.

Coun Roy Miller refused to answer questions on the council’s proposed £4.3m scheme for Dodworth Road and chiefly the future of Penny Pie Park - the popular greenspace which would be carved up to make way for the new carriageway - at last week’s full council meeting.

Coun Hannah Kitching told the Chronicle she had submitted a number of questions ahead of the meeting on the behalf of campaigners but was told that two of them would not be accepted as they concerned a ‘live planning application’.

Coun Kitching said: “Both Coun Miller and Coun Sir Steve Houghton have already spoken on this matter publicly, giving statements, speaking to the press and emailing constituents.
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“At the meeting itself Coun Miller actually refused to answer any of my questions, saying that he had had insufficient time to prepare despite them having been submitted well before the agreed deadline.

“It is very clear to me that this is an attempt to block discussion and debate on a matter which is already proving toxic for this administration.

“The planning application has already generated a huge amount of public interest, with 2,600 people signing a petition to save the park and more than 200 individual objections submitted in relation to the initial consultation.

“The cabinet is clearly terrified they are losing support for this doomed scheme and is desperately trying to save face.

“It won’t work. We know that their own planning department has raised significant concerns about the detrimental impacts of the scheme, particularly on air quality and noise pollution.

“Those concerns, combined with the widespread public outrage at the loss of this well-used and heavily invested in public greenspace mean that it is clearly now time to shelve this plan and return to the drawing board.”

The Chronicle recently revealed thousands of homes which border the proposed new road will suffer an increase in noise pollution if planning officials grant approval while inspection work carried out by Abbeydale Building Environment Consultants was done at the park on Monday and Tuesday, having been instructed by the council to gain more understanding about the position of in-filled clay pits.

Pete Fielding, from Penny Pie Park Action Group, attended last week’s meeting alongside fellow campaigners.

He said: “I was absolutely appalled by what I witnessed in the council chamber - we were looking forward to getting answers to our questions and to see Coun Miller just refuse to answer them is a disgrace.

“He is failing in his duty as an elected representative.

“As a direct result of Coun Miller’s conduct, I am resigning my membership of the Labour Party as I do not wish to be associated with this kind of abuse of the democratic process.

“The council clearly realise that these plans and this process have fallen apart.

“The justifications for the scheme have been shown to be false, the benefits are unproven and the harm caused by the scheme is demonstrably substantial.

“They should now stop the process and do further detailed work to look at alternative measures to reduce the number of vehicles using this junction.

“It is time for them to think again about the destruction of Penny Pie Park.”

Council leader Sir Steve Houghton dismissed claims the local authority were shirking questions and said ‘it’s procedure’.

“Our procedure rules allow that where an in-depth answer can’t conveniently be given to a question asked at full council, a written response can be provided to all members after the meeting,” Coun Houghton said.

“This is the process being followed in relation to questions asked of Coun Miller at the meeting on November 29.

“This isn’t a refusal to answer questions, it’s making sure that the person asking the question gets all of the information they have asked for.

“On proposals such as the junction 37/Dodworth Road redevelopment, it’s important that we’re clear with the facts and that we don’t play this out via politics.”