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Daily Telegraph | Posted 5th May 2016

Elderly villagers revolt at parish council meeting and overthrow ‘newbie’ councillors for solar farm and modernisation plans

Elderly villagers have overthrown a parish council of “newbies” after a complaining about their plans to build a solar farm and hire a £50,000 a year warden.

A by-election has been triggered at Danehill Parish Council following a mass resignation at a “blood bath” public meeting.

It came amid a bitter feud between the council and its critics, and allegations that a group of retired residents spearheaded a campaign of “name-calling” and bullying councillors.  

Charles Critchley, 45, an information security consultant and chairman of the parish council, led the walk-out after claiming the members had been subject to “personal and collective abuse” and “unsubstantiated allegations”.

Adeline Garman, a councillor, blamed the generation divide between the older community who describe themselves as “caring parishioners” and the “newbies” trying to set up projects including a fund for innovative community ideas.

Mark Rimington, another councillor, said that the group of elderly parishioners, who call themselves The Friends of Danehill and Chelwood Gate, came to the meeting and “wanted blood”.

“Some people are just frightened of change and want to retreat to the sort of England of the 1950s of cucumber sandwiches,” said Cllr Rimington, 59, a business coach and management consultant. “They are harking back to something that probably never really existed.”

“There has been accusation and name-calling. There has been personal and collective abuse”, Charles Critchley, chairman of the parish council.

The council and its vocal opponents also clashed over the running of the village’s nursery school, appointment of a parish warden and an increase in taxes.

The group of critics has set up their own website where they describe the councillors as “out of touch with the needs of parishioners” and express their “dismay” at plans to build a £2.8 million solar farm.

Cllr  Critchley,  who has lived in the village for 16 years with his family, said he felt the only way to bring the community together was to disband the council so a by-election could be held.

“As a council we have a responsibility: that is, the ability to respond to challenges in a changing world,” he said.

“There has been accusation and name-calling. There has been personal and collective abuse.

“And there has been widespread communication of unsubstantiated allegations and uniformed opinions”, he claimed.

“Having consulted with my fellow councillors, I believe that the best way to facilitate a fully democratically mandated parish council is for this council to resign and trigger an election.

“I therefore declare that this parish council has resigned and an election will ensue. I believe it is now time to begin the process of healing.”
Cllr Garman said she thought she had moved into a caring community, but now believes “we don’t live in a nice community at all”.

She said: “There’s a real divide between the older community, people that have been here a long time and feel they do everything and it’s their parish, and the people who have been here for less time but don’t get acknowledged for the benefit that they bring to the community.

“There are a group of people who aren’t happy with ‘newbies’ coming in and trying to build something.”


Danehill Parish Council website