Further to the letters presented last week by Esteban Camps and a fellow chairman of a parish council, Margaret Wright, I wish to reinforce the points that they made and highlight how the situation surrounding the council’s behaviour over the core strategy begs some very serious questions.
Firstly the information provided by officers to councillors for them to make a decision on is woeful.
Much of the information which has been made available is biased, poorly researched and not presented in an objective manner.
Unfortunately this seems to be norm, based on the other experiences the parish council has had to deal with regarding planning issues. Furthermore there is other information available that has not been made available to councillors.
Secondly, and more worrying, is that only a few of the Conservative councillors actually carried out their duty as a councillor, in questioning the integrity of the data provided by officers and challenging the non-disclosure of information to enable them to make a just decision.
I have nothing against GL Hearn, they are consultants to developers including the likes of Tesco, and hence will have a pro development and important opinion that needs to be considered.
However, to ensure balance, an opinion from another perspective should have been requested from councillors to their officers and had that presented as well.
This is critical because the GL Hearn report cannot be the objective evidential document in the way Harborough District Council are treating it because it is predictive and therefore by definition has to be subjective!
At least this would demonstrate that the decision-making process was not biased, which I would have thought was particularly important in light of the Stobart decision, made against the core strategy.
Furthermore, the minutes of the debate that took place, clearly demonstrates that many of the councillors had little, if any understanding of the subject which makes it even more important that they request the information to enable them to make an informed judgement.
The final and most worrying point is the lack of compliance to uphold and to be seen to be upholding the code of conduct all of us councillors, at whatever level, have signed up to abide by.
The code of conduct requires the behaviour of councillors to “be consistent with the principles of selflessness; integrity; objectivity; accountability; openness; honesty and leadership”.
I wrote to the councillor who holds the planning portfolio and have not even had a response. The response that I have had back to the questions I formally asked to be raised at the meeting show an almost flippant attitude with a staggeringly simplistic mentality towards what is a complex situation and a total lack of any substantiated reasoning behind the decision.
Now if councillors feel that the adopted core strategy is too restrictive, then they should say so.
Then obtain two reasoned reports from two different perspectives into what is felt that is needed and present to councillors to make a balanced decision. In light of the current population’s feelings about politicians generally at present, the least I would have expected from councillors would to have at least be seen to be conducting business properly, political or not. Therefore I would suggest that the majority of the Conservative councillors at Harborough District Council, and not just Councillor Rook, should be seriously asked whether they are in fact competent to carry out their duties in light of what has gone on.
Dr Richard Fowler
on behalf of Claybrooke Magna Parish Council