On Monday I attended a "consultation workshop" held by Brighton and Hove City Council on its plans for Brighton Marina. As leader of the savebrighton campaign, representing hundreds of people who complain they are being ignored by the council, I was intending to raise their concerns about the height and density of proposed tower blocks and their catastrophic effect on Brighton's traffic and infrastructure.

But it soon became clear that participants would not be allowed to focus on the issues that concerned them. When I queried this I was told that if I didn't like it I should leave.

Participants were placed in groups, each placed under the control of a planning officer who made sure we discussed the "right" things. It was like a Moonies indoctrination session - you couldn't talk to anyone out of the sight or control of a planning officer.

Geoffrey Theobald, former head of the environment committee, was in my group. I tried to open a discussion of the height and density issue, a topic I knew he was interested in but the facilitator stopped me and Coun Theobald said if I persisted he would leave. I persisted. He left.

Other groups were trying to make sense of the council's set tasks, which included saying what was good and bad about the roundabout outside Asda - I kid you not. Meanwhile, a venerable and highly respected citizen and savebrighton member, Stella McCrickard, for many years a magistrate and chairman of East Sussex Magistrates Association, had been barred entry by a council planning officer assisted by a bouncer on the grounds that her presence would "unbalance" the workshop.

This council pretends to consult because it knows it has a statutory duty to do so, but instead of conducting a real consultation it devises an event consisting of irrelevant exercises and stops participants from discussing the issues that really matter. In its essential philosophy it is hard to distinguish this from a Robert Mugabe "election". The only difference is that they don't hack off dissenters' limbs or murder them.

  • Brian Simpson, savebrighton, The Cliff, Brighton