Police and security guards were used to control access to a council meeting about wind turbines.
Torridge District Council took the unusual step after claims that someone was assaulted at a previous meeting.
But the measures came under fire from members of the public.
The council increased security at its monthly plans committee meeting last Thursday.
People were left waiting outside, having been told they could only enter when the application they were interested in was being discussed.
The committee room of the council’s Riverbank House in Bideford has capacity for 50 people, but about 150 turned up for the meeting.
Peter Hines, from Black Torrington, waited for two and half hours before he could get into the room.
He had travelled to the meeting specifically to hear debate on wind turbine applications, but missed all of them.
He said: “They need to know this is as much about the public as it is about them. It was literally unlawful not allowing people into a public meeting.
“I counted three security staff and five police officers. It was so unnecessary and a complete panic reaction.
“We are middle-class people. We might get angry but we are not about threats or intimidation.
“They did anticipate that amount of people otherwise they would not have had the security in place. They should have moved it to a bigger room.”
Steve Harrup, who lives at Shebbear, said he managed to get into the committee room to hear the first turbine application.
He would have stayed longer but felt guilty about those who had been left outside so he left the meeting to create space for someone else.
He said: “It was a complete shambles. They tried to look like they knew what they were doing with registering all of us but it was a sham.
“I was planning to stay until the end but I felt it wasn’t fair on those waiting outside.”
The extra security cost the council £300 but council leader Barry Parsons defended the decision.
He said: “There has been an allegation that a planning applicant for a wind turbine was assaulted by protestors at the last plans committee.
“We needed to make sure that nothing like that could happen.
“The council has a duty of care to its members, its officers and to members of the public.
“After completing a risk assessment and erring on the side of caution, the council decided to employ security to manage the numbers of people present.
“As we were not aware of the numbers that might attend the meeting until a few days before, there was not enough time to re-advertise the meeting at another venue, as we have to give at least one week’s notice.
“We believe the presence of security contributed to a calm environment in which members could hold open and frank discussions and arrive at sound planning decisions.”
The council confirmed it was the first time security of this level had been employed for a meeting.
Police said there were two police officers at start of the meeting who were then replaced by another two later in the afternoon. In total there was a police presence at Riverbank House for three hours. Police said an assault had not been reported to them following the June meeting.
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