Central Bedfordshire draft Local Plan telephone survey criticised over ‘leading questions’

Central Bedfordshire Council has come under fire over allegedly leading questions in a telephone sur

Central Bedfordshire Council has come under fire over allegedly leading questions in a telephone survey. File photo. Credit: Dave Thompson/PA Wire - Credit: PA

A telephone survey consulting about Central Bedfordshire’s draft Local Plan has been criticised for allegedly including leading questions.

Councillor Adam Zerny, who has criticised the survey.

Councillor Adam Zerny, who has criticised the survey. - Credit: Archant

The survey was commissioned by Central Bedfordshire Council at a cost of £12,900 to gather additional feedback on the draft Local Plan – for which public consultation closed last week.

Councillor Adam Zerny, who represents Potton as an independent, told the Comet that he had asked to see the script after members of the public complained to him about how the questions were worded.

He said: “I have real concerns about the way the survey attempts to lead the interviewee.

“The script gives no information on the total numbers of houses the council proposes, and doesn’t acknowledge that Central Beds Council has no power to provide the new doctors’ surgeries or schools vital for the proposed housing developments.


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“The phone survey also implies residents support the Local Plan – which is patently not the case – and that the Local Plan will provide affordable houses for all, when the council just cannot promise this.

“Despite the criticism they’ve had for referring to new housing developments as ‘villages’ and ‘market towns’, the survey promises the council will be ‘creating new, attractive villages’, in an attempt to make large new housing developments sound like a good thing.

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“It’s ironic that Central Beds Council refused public email feedback which arrived hours after the deadline, instead choosing to spend almost £13,000 of public money on phone calls.”

Central Beds Council is not expecting to announce the results of the consultation for some months, but says there could be revisions to the plan and that the public will again get the chance to comment next spring.

Responding to Mr Zerny’s concerns, Councillor Nigel Young – Central Beds Council’s executive member for regeneration and strategic planning – said the survey was supposed to complement prior public consulation.

Central Bedfordshire Council's executive member for regeneration, Councillor Nigel Young.

Central Bedfordshire Council's executive member for regeneration, Councillor Nigel Young. - Credit: Archant

He said: “We are committed to understanding the views of local people as part of our decision making.

“The survey is designed to complement the consultation, which was open to the whole community and accessible through a range of channels.

“The survey will help us to understand the views of people who represent a cross section of our community – this is why we sometimes commission an independent market research agency to undertake surveys like this.”

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