Graffiti attack over local plan

The graffiti
The graffiti

Two villagers who were targeted by abusive graffiti have said that they want to move on from the sorry saga and close a lid on the incident.

Embleton Parish Council chairman Terry Howells and resident David Ainsley were branded ‘dodgy’ in angry spray-painted rants which were daubed on rural roads.

The graffiti

The graffiti

The graffiti attack, which happened last Wednesday evening, appears to be in relation to the on-going work to formulate the Embleton Parish Council Neighbourhood Plan.

In a separate message, the vandal accuses members of the committee of holding ‘secret village plan meetings’.

The graffiti – which appeared on the road between Christon Bank and Fallodon and between Embleton and Dunstan Steads – has since been removed.

Coun Howells and Mr Ainsley, who are both involved in the neighbourhood plan, say it is a shame that the culprit or culprits have acted in this way.

The pair deny any wrongdoing and say that the 14-strong steering committee – made of volunteers including five parish councillors – is working hard to draw up a strategy which will help to create a ‘sustainable and thriving community’.

Coun Howells said: “It is sad that somebody has felt so upset that they have taken this sort of action, when they could have gone to the parish council and made their point.”

Mr Ainsley, who is chairman of the neighbourhood plan steering group, believes the angry messages relate to the working party’s decision to no longer hold all of its meetings in public, but insists that this is an accepted procedure and the public will be involved in the development of the plan.

He said: “We started this in 2016. When we began the process, we invited members of the public to come and ask questions, but at one particular meeting, some people got abusive; they had land interests about settlement boundaries etc.

“Our consultant, who is involved in planning, was upset about this and we were advised that, as we are a working party, we don’t need to hold meetings in public.

“So, we took the decision not to do so.

“We do, however, report to the parish council and members of the public will be kept in the loop and they will have the chance to have their say on the plan.

“If the citizens of Embleton parish don’t support it, then it won’t happen, so it is important that we come up with a plan that generates the right support.”

The pair, who are friends and socialise together, believe they were singled out in the graffiti because of the roles they hold as chairmen.

They also stress that they are fully accountable to the other members of the working party. The plan, when it is completed, also needs to have support from the parish council, be approved by the local planning authority, cleared by an independent examiner and then voted on in a public referendum.

The pair say they have received a lot of support from residents since the graffiti. Coun Howells said: “A lot of parishioners have been very supportive since the graffiti and expressed their sorrow that this has happened. In truth, people are embarrassed by it.”

Mr Ainsley added: “We have been gratified by people’s remarks since the incident.”

Coun Wendy Pattison, who is county councillor for the Longhoughton ward, which covers Embleton parish, condemned the graffiti.

She said: “This was totally unexpected and it upset me.”

Defending Coun Howells and Mr Ainsley, as well as the rest of the neighbourhood-plan group, she added: “They are trying their best to protect their parish for the future. They are volunteers and want the very best for the area.”