A COUNCIL leader has blasted a neighbouring authority for "hiding" from the public.

Winchester City Council's North Whiteley development forum has been hosted online since the pandemic started.

The forum allows residents to ask questions to councillors and developers about the 3,500-home estate currently under construction.

But Councillor Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council, believes the city council is avoiding public transparency.

"We need to be meeting in person, the pandemic has passed, councils are meant to meet in public again, why isn’t this one,’ he said.

"We were asked to email the chairman that we wanted public meetings.

"I raised issues around the unsatisfactory nature of virtual meetings, feedback was invited which suggested we should meet at Cornerstone primary school in the North Whiteley area.

"The cabinet noted the views of the members and decided the forum will remain virtual.

"There was no reason given at all – I tend to lead the charge at each meeting and say why aren’t we meeting in public?

"What are they hiding away from because there are members of the public who do like to come along and spectate and contribute to the meeting.

"There’s supposed to be transparency and it seems this administration at WCC doesn’t want to face the public.

"The developers give presentations at these meetings, they’re not decision-making bodies, it’s for giving and receiving information. When the public watches online they can’t see the presentation – that’s how crude the system is."

The leader of Winchester City Council, Cllr Martin Todd said the number of forum attendants went up since switching to virtual meetings.

He said: ‘It’s more convenient for many people, particularly for young families with childcare responsibilities, and with recent high levels of Covid-19 infections, people who are clinically vulnerable can attend without putting themselves at risk.

‘That means more people involved, more transparency, more people able to have their say.’