There was anger and confusion at Falmouth Town Council on Monday night as Falmouth University's communications chief pulled out of a planned presentation because he seemingly did not want to face residents.

Robert Hillier, director of communications at the university, had been expected to attend the council meeting to present the latest plans for student numbers and accommodation next academic year.

He had informed the council of his intentions at the end of last week, but cancelled in an email just 15 minutes before the meeting was due to start.

But Mr Hillier told the Packet the next day that the cancellation was not a "no-show" as the presentation had simply been a request from the university, rather than something asked for by the council, and he would pass on the figures at another time.

The meeting was thrown into disarray before it had even started with around 50 members of the public, including representatives of campaign group Save Our Falmouth, questioning why Mr Hillier had refused to show.

Town clerk Mark Williams read out an email from Mr Hillier, which stated that the numbers had been prepared, but he had been made aware that a leaflet had been circulated "with his name very prominently" on it, and he was "less than keen to attend in person."

Among the general hubbub that ensued, one person shouted out "he's too scared."

Save Our Falmouth had circulated a leaflet before the meeting, urging residents to attend, and stating "the meeting includes the town mayor's report and also a presentation by Robert Hillier, Falmouth University regarding student numbers and accommodation."

It also asked members to "show solidarity, attend and let the council know that enough is enough."

Pam Cowan, of Save Our Falmouth, said: "The residents of Falmouth have got out especially this evening to listen to Robert Hillier, and at the last minute he has decided not to come.

"One must assume that he's afraid to come because there's so many people... he obviously felt very uncomfortable in coming here."

Speaking to the Packet on Tuesday, Mr Hillier said the planned report had simply been a late request by Falmouth University, rather than something required by the council, to be fitted into what was already a busy meeting, with the proviso that "we may not be ready to do so as the figures needed double and triple checking."

"As it happens," he said, "we weren't quite ready with the numbers."

He added: "Working with the town clerk, I said let's just take it off the agenda."

Asked about the his thoughts on being named in the leaflet, he said: "I would rather they wouldn't because there was no confirmation we were going to attend," but added, "there was no concern about being harassed or intimidated.

He added that as he is currently on crutches and unable to stand for long periods of time, he felt he could not attend a meeting where he may be expected to talk for long periods, especially if questioned by residents afterwards.

"It was never supposed to be a Q and A session, it was simply a five sentence presentation on figures."

Mr Hillier also made the point that the university now had a representative at all town council meetings and councillor surgeries, and said that he would be presenting the student accommodation figures at a later date.

Such was the disruption that the meeting was unable to start at its allotted time of 7pm, and councillors had to wait around 15 minutes before they could continue with council business.

Councillor David Saunby said: "That's the most I have seen in the council chamber for a long time, and they all came to hear him speak."