By David GreenA PARISH council has been criticised for acting too hastily in deciding to retain a village noticeboard that has been likened to a French street toilet.

By David Green

A PARISH council has been criticised for acting too hastily in deciding to retain a village noticeboard that has been likened to a French street toilet.

But parish councillors have defended their action, claiming it was in line with the wishes of the majority of residents.

Debenham Parish Council took its decision after a poll of electors resulted in 64% voting in favour of retaining the green, pillar-shaped noticeboard - dubbed by some villagers as the Debenham pissoir.

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Seventy per cent of the residents canvassed responded to the poll and councillors said they believed they were endorsing the voice of the village.

But Chris McAleer, chairman of the new Debenham Society, founded by “anti-pissoir” campaigners, claimed the decision should not have been made until after a public meeting on the issue, which has been scheduled for October 14.

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“The manner in which this whole issue has been approached by the council defies belief,” he said. “If the council believes this will bring an end to the matter, they are very much mistaken.”

Mr McAleer claimed following a public outcry over the design of the noticeboard, the parish council had decided to conduct a six-month public consultation exercise, culminating in the public meeting.

He felt the result of a parish poll was not an accurate reflection of the majority view and alleged the information that accompanied the ballot paper had been misleading.

“It suggested there would be a cost to the parish if the board was resited or replaced and this is not the case,” said Mr McAleer.

He added the parish council should not have voted until after the October 14 meeting to fulfil its promise to hold an open meeting as part of the public consultation.

But Mick Morley, chairman of the parish council working party that conducted the consultation, said the October 14 meeting had been arranged to respond to comments made on the polling papers.

It had also been arranged to give residents the chance to hear full details of the consultation exercise and decision-making process, he added.

“It was arranged after the poll took place, but before the count,” he said, pointing out great efforts had been made to ensure the information accompanying the ballet papers had been correct.

Mr Morley added there was no doubt moving the noticeboard or replacing it with a board of a different design would incur a cost for Council Tax payers.

“The village clearly stated its opinion in the poll and the parish council merely endorsed that opinion,” he said.

Eddy Alcock, parish council vice-chairman, said it would be irresponsible to go against the wishes of the majority in the light of the parish poll.

“It is not a question of the parish council voting - the village has already voted,” he added.

Gerry Baxter, another parish councillor, said: “We said all along that we would do what the majority wanted.”

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