The Beaconsfield Society has been accused of a “smear campaign” against the Beaconsfield Town Council after claiming that its signs publicising a meeting about the Neighbourhood Plan were “stolen”.

The civic group is hosting a public meeting about what it calls the Council’s “very poor new planning policy” at St Mary & All Saints Church in the Old Town at 19:30 on November 1, 2023.

It claims the Council is “rushing through” the Plan and its members have alleged that the Council has “stolen” signs from around the town to prevent members of the public from attending its event.

It is understood that the Society did not notify the Council about putting the signs up around the town until the night of October 25 and the Council has dismissed allegations it stole the signs as “untrue”.

Six professionally made green and red signs worth £180 and reading, ‘The truth behind the Neighbourhood Plan’, were put up late last week before allegedly being removed between October 23 and 24.

A maximum of four signs are allowed to be put up per event under the Council’s sign permit general conditions, which also stipulate that signs must be freestanding, put up no more than 14 days before the event, and placed as far back from the roadside as possible.

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A spokesperson for the Council told the BBC Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “I am not aware of any theft of signs.  Beaconsfield Town Council have certainly not removed any.

“The signs may well have been removed by Highways, but it seems that rather than asking us directly, the Beaconsfield Society has been running a social media campaign all day to smear the Town Council.”

They added: “There is strict guidance about signage, especially on the highway and it would be usual to apply for permission for signage to be placed.

“Without locations being approved by the Highways Authority, unauthorised signs could be considered an offence under the Highways Act 1980, as well as the dangers of potential services being underground or impeding visibility etc.”

Simon Woolf, a Society Committee member, put forward several theories – without evidence – about what happened to the signs.

He told the LDRS that they could have been removed by the Council, a Council contractor or even “Tory activists”.

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He said: “Some little numpty has removed signs. I can’t believe it is a member of the public that did this.

“If it was deliberate, it is a real low for local politics. I think this has got all the hallmarks of being something really sinister.”

Mr Woolf’s associate, Chris Kirk Cameron, the Society Secretary went further, adding: “We have a witness that they were taken down by a truck that said ‘Highways’ on it.”

He added: “It is certainly someone related to the Council. A member of the Society drove past and saw them doing it.”

Society Chair Alison Wheelhouse also weighed in, adding: “It seems that a mean-spirited person has taken it upon themselves to remove the signs, which were only put up to tell people about the meeting.”

The Beaconsfield Society claims that the Neighbourhood Plan, which is supposed to give the community the ability to shape its neighbourhoods, does not adequately protect the local Green Belt from developers.

The Society’s November 1 meeting comes before the current consultation period on the Plan ends on November 9. The Plan will then go to a referendum in 2024, which the town can vote on.

Full details are available on the Council’s website here.