Fire bell delayed crunch Focsa waste site meeting

HUNDREDS of people were left stuck outside County Hall after a fire bell - including Harborough campaigners there for a crunch meeting.

The fire alarm at Leicestershire County Council's Glenfield headquarters went off at about 1.45pm on Thursday (April 22), forcing a mass evacuation.

Among the hundreds left outside were Cllr Phil Knowles and other town supporters who were there for a development control and regulatory committe meeting.

People were finally allowed back inside after the council's technical experts re-set the fire bell.

The committee briefly discussed the contentious Focsa planning application for a waste transfer site at Welham Lane in Great Bowden.

Villagers have a list of grievances against the proposal including concerns over noise and traffic. Focsa has been operating at the site since October without planning consent due to a legal loophole.

Councillors decided to defer a decision until a site visit is carried out.

Cllr Knowles said he was encouraged that members wanted to see the site first-hand.

* A SCRUTINY panel meeting to discuss Harborough District Council's controversial decision to enter into a 25.9million waste contract without it being properly signed or backed by a bank bond is being delayed due to the General Election.

A briefing note was sent to district councillors and officers last Wednesday saying the scrutiny meeting scheduled for April 29 would now be postponed due to the 'purdah' period.

Purdah, more commonly-known as the pre-election period, is a term used in UK politics to describe the time between an announced election and the final election result. During the period, civil servants have to abide by a strict code of practice so they are not seen to be acting in any way party-politically.

Cllr Phil Knowles, of the opposition Lib Dem group, said: "I advised the council that I will circulate details of the postponement as the original timetable was in the public domain and the residents should be aware of the latest situation."

Focsa's seven-year deal with the council was not properly signed for the first 11 months of its duration and opposition councillors are demanding answers over why this decision was never raised nor discussed. Critics say the council left itself open to huge financial risks and placed itself in a weakened negotiating position.