A council leader has blasted Winchester City Council for avoiding "any proper scrutiny and debate" concerning the North Whiteley development.

Public forums for the 3,500 homes currently under construction have been live-streamed by the council since the beginning of the pandemic.

The meetings, held three times a year, offer residents the opportunity to ask questions and gain insights into the emerging development.

The most recent meeting took place in February at Cornerstone Primary School in Whiteley. However, the upcoming meeting scheduled for July 17 will now be held virtually, a decision made by Winchester City Council (WCC).

Cllr Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council, said: "Winchester City Council is once again resorting to online meetings to avoid proper scrutiny and debate on matters related to the North Whiteley development.

"The previous in-person meeting held at Cornerstone Primary School in Whiteley proved to be highly effective, fostering face-to-face debate and interaction that is impossible to replicate online.

"It is disheartening that despite our two-year request for in-person meetings and the success of the previous gathering, we are now forced to revert to online platforms. This decision undermines public participation, scrutiny, and meaningful interaction among members."

In response, a WCC spokesperson said the council is committed to transparency "and therefore makes all meetings available online – this is not something which all councils do.

"Some meetings are hybrid and some meetings are online only – but they’re all streamed live for the public to watch. They are then made available online for people to watch back at a later date – many more people can find out what’s happening this way.

"As an example, more people watched the last meeting of the North Whiteley forum online than attended in person. For some people, particularly those who work long hours or who have caring responsibilities, online meetings are more convenient, particularly when they are recorded. It also makes it much easier to bring in experts who may live a distance away.

"We know from our YouTube figures that there have been 231 views of the last Forum meeting so far – far more than attendance in person. Because online is clearly working well for people in North Whiteley, the chair of the meeting decided that the next forum would be held online only."