Cheshire East council leader snubs Crewe housing meeting

Oakhanger meeting About 60 people attended the meeting in Oakhanger expecting to hear from the council leader

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A council leader has refused to turn up to a meeting he organised about a housing development because he objected to journalists being there.

Cheshire East council leader Michael Jones had agreed to meet villagers from Barthomley and Oakhanger, near Crewe, over plans to build about 2,000 houses.

He sent a statement to the meeting instead which said it was "counter-productive to involve the media".

Reporters from BBC Radio Stoke and BBC North West Tonight were at the meeting.

More than 800 people have signed a petition against the plans to build homes on greenbelt land on part of the Duchy of Lancaster estate.

Mr Jones said: "We want a free open discussion and we want to hear people's views, it's not about having a media circus."

He said he had had 130 similar meetings in his time as leader and had never invited the media.

'Left frustrated'

The BBC said that the reporters had offered to wait outside while the meeting went on but Mr Jones said that message was not passed to him.

He said he would invite local campaigners from the Barthomley Action Group to discuss the plans with him in a private meeting.

Campaigner Richard Dale said he was disappointed that Mr Jones had not turned up to speak to the 60 residents who came to the meeting.

"Everybody has been left frustrated because we wanted to know what the councillor had to say and tell him our concerns for Barthomley and Oakhanger," he said.

A statement released by the Duchy of Lancaster said: "We strongly support Cheshire East Council in its aim to deliver their growth strategy for Crewe, through the new local plan."

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