THREE councillors have been accused of choosing to go to a Christmas dinner rather than attend an important meeting on the future of a site in their ward.

The chairman of the Redbridge Residents' Association in Southampton has criticised the trio for not turning up to the urgent meeting about a proposed industrial development just yards away from peoples' homes.

But they have hit back, saying they had to attend an important briefing at the city council, and that it was “impossible to be in two places at once”.

As previously reported, Evander Properties has handed in plans to build a 21,000 sq m industrial and distribution complex on land in Test Lane, Redbridge.

The plans have been opposed by many residents, who fear the noise and visual impact the plans would have, and an extraordinary general meeting of the Residents' Association was called for Monday evening.

The area's three Labour ward councillors - Andrew Pope, Lee Whitbread and Cathy McEwing - did not attend the meeting, having sent their apologies due to another meeting that had been in their diaries “for some time”.

Cllr Pope and Cllr Whitbread confirmed to the Daily Echo they attended a briefing at the Civic Centre on council workers' pay, but then went to their party's Christmas dinner at about 8.30pm.

It is understood Cllr McEwing was at another "family engagement" which she had had planned for a long time, and meant she was unable to attend either the briefing or dinner.

Daily Echo:

Cllr Andrew Pope

With the residents' association meeting starting at 7.30pm and lasting until 9.30pm, association chairman Eugene Macmanus believes one of the councillors should have travelled back to the meeting after their briefing.

He said: “It was such an important meeting and such an important thing to be potentially happening to the Redbridge area.

“When we arranged the meeting the councillors' schedules weren't a priority for us, and I don't see why it should be.

“This application could change the landscape of Redbridge forever.”

Daily Echo:

Cllr Lee Whitbread

But responding, Cllr Whitbread said the briefing for Labour councillors had been “mandatory” adding: “I can't speak for my colleagues but what I can say is that the matters before us were important matters that affect the city and it's important that I as a councillor take my obligations seriously.

“I can't be in two places at once.”

Cllr Pope said: “Yes we were at our Christmas dinner after an essential meeting, which we told the association about.

“They are not representative and have not been representative for many years of the local area.

“Because we didn't agree absolutely with two or three individuals they are making a meal out of things which are not going to help them.

“We couldn't possibly do anything more to represent their views, but because they are disappointed they are lashing out at us.”

Both councillors said they were considering objecting to the development plans, due to “fundamental issues of the height and locations of buildings”.