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Coronavirus Kent: Ashford Borough Council to stop all Civic Centre meetings

A council is halting all meetings following a public uproar and a cross-party petition.

Ashford Borough Council had resisted the trend of ceasing face-to-face meetings when it held a Planning Committee meeting on Wednesday.

Ashford Borough Council's headquarters (6592529)
Ashford Borough Council's headquarters (6592529)

Many other authorities across the county have already announced a temporary end to all formal meetings while the coronavirus outbreak continues to surge.

Folkestone and Hythe District Council stopped all formal meetings last Wednesday, while some - including Dover and Sevenoaks - have cancelled the majority of meetings.

The ABC decision to hold last week's planning session was called "an assault on public safety and democracy" by Cllr Nathan Iliffe, and prompted a cross-party open letter to be written in opposition to the decision.

In the petition, the signatories likened the move of continuing meetings to "playing Russian roulette with the lives of staff, Councillors, and residents."

Despite being a highly contentious plan, only 82 members of the public were allowed to visit ABC's Civic Centre.

Conservative councillor Nathan Iliffe was one of the joint leads on the petition, alongside Ashford Labour leader Brendan Chilton and Ashford Independents leader Noel Ovenden
Conservative councillor Nathan Iliffe was one of the joint leads on the petition, alongside Ashford Labour leader Brendan Chilton and Ashford Independents leader Noel Ovenden

However far fewer turned up and a live-stream set up to broadcast the meeting failed, causing an early end to proceedings.

The meeting was postponed until March 30, five days after a separate and similarly impactful film studio plan was set to be discussed on Wednesday.

Now however, Ashford Borough Council has confirmed today that it will halt all face-to-face meetings for an indefinite period.

This will has been viewed as a success by the 30 councillors of all parties who signed the open letter which was released on Saturday.

A tweet from the authority said: "The Civic Centre is now closed to the public from this morning onwards. Only urgent pre booked meetings will still go ahead.

"However, we can still be contacted via email customer.care@ashford.gov.uk or by phone 01233 331111."

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