The leader of a Horsham residents group has raised concerns about a perceived failure by Horsham council to "properly involve" the community in the City to River Masterplan.
During public question time at the Monday council meeting Horsham Rural Ratepayers and Residents president Di Bell asked councillors to justify how community engagement on the plan had been sufficient.
Mayor Mark Radford said the council had gone to "extraordinary lengths" to encourage people to raise their concerns about the draft concept masterplan.
He said council had also extended the submission deadline and that more than 700 submissions had been received between July 4 and August 30 last year.
Mrs Bell noted that the group's petition, which attracted more than 2000 signatures, had been dismissed at a council meeting in December.
The petition called on Horsham council "to halt all Transforming Horsham plans including the City to River Masterplan until an acceptable level of community engagement, inclusion and transparency of processes in these and future plans by the council, has been resolved".
Council voted to receive and note the petition but said that the community engagement process had been undertaken as per Council's Community Engagement Policy.
The council committed to further engage with all relevant stakeholders around the specific projects when the schematic design phase begins following a vote on the final plan.
Mrs Bell then asked when council would review its community engagement policy, as previously promised.
"As shown by the response to the petition Horsham Rural City Council's engagement is currently unacceptable by the community," she said.
Chief executive Sunil Bhalla said council "could certainly review the policy" and that there were gaps in the current approach. "There is certainly the opportunity for the ratepayer group to be more involved in the process," he said.
Mayor Mark Radford said he believed the community engagement on the plan, including public submissions and the petition did affect the decisions on the City to River plan.
Mr Bhalla said council had followed community engagement principles as laid out in their policy and would continue to do so in the future.
"The City to River engagement was the largest community engagement activity undertaken to date, he said. "The fact that we received 740 submissions meant that our engagement was a success.
"We wanted our community to tell us what they liked about that project and that is exactly what they did and that represents effective engagement."
Following the meeting Mrs Bell told the Mail-Times she was disappointed that council had missed her point on the issue of community engagement.
"They kept speaking about the number of submissions as constituting engagement but that is still a top-down approach rather than actually consulting the community," she said.
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