Planning Committee Changes Slammed by Councillors
In advance of crucial meeting on Brentford Football Club
Hounslow Council defended the move and said it was to ensure impartiality on the Committee and the new members had plenty of experience in planning matters.
At last week’s Borough Council the Labour administration made three new nominations to the Planning Committee. Councillors Colin Ellar, Shantanu Rajawat and Corinna Smart are to replace Councillors Ruth Cadbury, Mel Collins and Steve Curran.
Councillor Tom Bruce is appointed as the new Chairman, replacing Ruth Cadbury, who is running as Labour's candidate for the constituency in the next general election.
Chiswick Councillor Peter Thompson, Leader of the Conservative Group said;“Such last minute changes to the Planning Committee only days before the crucial meeting are unprecedented during my time on the Council."
He questioned whether the new members could get "up to speed" on a complex planning matter in such a short time.
The Conservatives said the changes were "just in time" to ensure Labour retained their ‘political proportionality’ (9 Labour votes vs 7 Conservative) for the decision on the Brentford FC application, as Councillors Cadbury, Collins and Curran were likely to have interests which prevent them from speaking or voting on the application.
Councillor Sheila O’Reilly, a Conservative member of the committee, commented; “These fresh subs off the bench are welcomed assuming they are fully trained in planning rules, but given the extreme short notice of this move, it is hardly open and transparent as Labour are keen to describe themselves, so I award them a Red Card’.
Councillor Thompson, added, “I fully understand that when a councillor has an interest on an application that they have to declare it and not take part in the discussion or vote. However I don’t recall ever replacing them on the committee! Given that planning operates without a party whip, with each member deciding how to vote based on their own evaluation of the case, why did the Labour feel the need to make this last minute substitution to maintain their numbers?
He continued; Even without Cllrs Cadbury, Collins and Curran the committee would have been quorate. Moreover many residents have been making views known for several months on the Brentford FC application to committee members. Can Ellar, Rajawat and Smart really be expected to get up to speed on this complex case in a matter of days?”
A spokesperson for Hounslow Council said: “Having taken legal advice, three members have resigned from the planning committee. Two of the councillors concerned live extremely close to the club’s existing Griffin Park stadium, while a third is a season-ticket holder at the club. There are no issues in respect of timing - this course of action simply ensures that the application will be decided by a committee with no personal or pecuniary interests, whose membership includes councillors who are very experienced at deciding planning applications.”
December 4, 2013