A Cheshire East meeting descended into chaos and had to be temporarily adjourned with one furious councillor calling for the chair to be replaced for disrespecting members of the public.

There were shouts from the public gallery of ‘outrageous’ and ‘when’s the elections’ as experts representing the Friends of Poynton Pool (FPP) community group were challenged about their credentials by Cllr Mark Goldsmith (Ind), chair of the economy and growth committee.

At one stage, while responding to a 5,800 signature petition presented by the group about the historic reservoir – the Wilmslow councillor referred to one of the group’s expert witnesses as a ‘man who worked for a company making hair straighteners’.

Knutsford Guardian: Cllr Mark GoldsmithCllr Mark Goldsmith (Image: Cheshire East Council)

This was despite being told earlier in the meeting on Friday by the expert himself that he was a chartered engineer and a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, who was currently working on safety improvements on statutory reservoirs across the UK.

Cllr Goldsmith appeared to confuse the company the expert had once worked for – GHD – with the company of the same name which makes hair straighteners.

Dozens of objectors had turned up at the meeting at Macclesfield Town Hall to oppose the £1.38m safety works the council wants to carry out at Poynton Pool.

The pool is classed as a large high-risk reservoir, which means an uncontrolled release of water could endanger human life.

Knutsford Guardian: Poynton PoolPoynton Pool (Image: Geoff Jennings)

The council, as landowner, has a legal obligation to carry out works to ensure the reservoir is safe and, following a safety inspection, has submitted a planning application to do work to prevent possible future flooding.

But the FPP – and their expert speakers – told the committee the proposed works, which includes removal of more than 30 trees to enable improvements to the dam between the pool and London Road North, is excessive.

They argued the works are based on a ‘flawed’ study, there are less harmful alternatives available and called for a new, independent survey inspection.

During the meeting Cllr Goldsmith was accused by Sutton councillor Chris O’Leary (Con) of being ‘quite rude’ to members of the public who had attended as speakers.

But it was when Cllr Goldsmith summed up with a speech to explain why Cheshire East was proposing  the works, that Cllr O’Leary called for him to stop talking and be replaced as chair.

During part of the speech, Cllr Goldsmith attacked FPP.

“Nothing we can do or say can convince them that saving 3,500 people’s homes, possessions and even lives is more important than saving 31 trees,” he said.

“Unfortunately their obsession to win this fight means they have lost sight of the real prize, which is stop the people of Poynton permanently living in the shadow of catastrophic disaster.”

He added: “So the three experts and the environment agency all independently say this work is needed, Cheshire East must do it, this is the most environmentally friendly way to do it…

“However, today, the FPP want us to dismiss all that and instead believe their technical adviser, a man who, for the past 35 years, has worked for a company making hair straighteners.”

Knutsford Guardian: Cllr Chris O'LearyCllr Chris O'Leary (Image: Cheshire East Council)

Before he could finish, and following an outburst again from the public, Cllr O’Leary called a point of order.

He told Cllr Goldsmith: “I think it’s clear that you are causing some problems in your current position of chair. I would therefore like to move that we appoint a new chair of this committee and I would like to do that now.”

This was loudly applauded by the public gallery.

Cllr O’Leary added: “Because you’ve infuriated me so much by your comments and your disrespect for members of the public here, I would like to move that a named member of this committee is not further heard and I name you.”

Eventually the committee voted to note the petition and move to the next item of business.

Members of the public were still unhappy and the meeting was adjourned temporarily and reconvened for the next agenda item.