Is this democracy? This was the question put to a Christchurch Council meeting last month by petitioners seeking to keep open the Highcliffe zigzag path.

It wasn’t answered then and it hasn’t been answered since.

One simple but recognised definition of democracy is “Government by the people” - that may well be true but apparently only when it suits the Christchurch Council to graciously agree – which is not often.

The zigzag path rebuild project was abandoned as a result of a wafer thin majority vote at the August Community Committee – and despite the clear public demand (3,250 votes) for the decision to be rescinded, neither the councillors nor the public appears to be able to do this.

How can it be right that members of the community committee never saw the report from consultants AECOM when they voted for closure?

How do you vote for something with half the story missing?

It was that consultant’s report (commissioned at a cost to us all of £25,000), and that report alone, that seemingly galvanised council officers into suggesting the project may be unaffordable.

So why not let us all look at the report? Why not let us all see why the decision had to be made? That’s democracy, isn’t it? No, say the council’s officers. The report is ours to see and act upon, but it’s not available to you, the Councillors when you make your decision. Or to the public.

It’s some modest reassurance that there are safeguards set up in law to help us fight such undemocratic, secretive decisions. There’s an independent Information Commissioner to “uphold the information rights in the public interest” and to “promote openness by public bodies”.

Now they’re on the case and they have already asked the council to revisit the request made by several members of the public to see the AECOM report.

But whatever the decision of the Information Commissioner, why do Christchurch officers have to be dragged kicking and screaming to this position? Why don’t they want us to see the report on which they based their decision? Aside from the possibility of mass panic across the South coast because of unexploded ordinance, what else is in it that they fear us seeing?

Openness, Democracy - not a chance.

Bob Hutchings,


Rothesay Drive Residents Association,