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A Bad DMC Meeting

DMC May 2014 A Bad MeetingThis is a very long counterbalance about a Development Management Committee meeting on 7th May 2014.

It appears that Fylde's webcast recording equipment stopped working about 12 minutes into the meeting, and there's no record for FBC to put on YouTube - so we've made up for that a bit by publishing extensive quotations from the meeting.

This report is probably the most extensive published record of what was said at the meeting.

Some of our readers told us they thought the recording malfunction was very convenient for Fylde because it was a awful meeting.

We couldn't possibly comment. (as Ian Richardson from TV's 'House of Cards' might have said)

But it probably *was* fortunate that we were there with our own audio recording equipment.

We also know of at least one other attendee who undertook their own separate recording. So if FBC want to check what was said, either counterbalance or our friend can oblige if asked to do so.

Given the length of this report, we've included a sort of index to the main parts for those in a hurry

We've been to all sorts of meetings at Fylde. We've been to occasional good ones - like the own where they voted to abandon the former Commissar's desperately urgent plan to sign Fylde up to something called the 'Growth Point Bid' that would have turned out to be a disaster for us.

We've also seen some impressively bad ones - chief amongst those was the 3 March meeting that decided to close the Swimming Pools. That one was both a bad decision and a procedurally bad meting as well.

This month we sat through a Development Management Committee meeting (7th May 2014) which was also a bad meeting.

It was so bad that we had councillors and officers coming up to us during the lunch break to say we must have weeks worth of material for counterbalance from the meeting. One said "Ooh! you're going to have a field day, aren't you?"

That's the other reason why this cb is so long.

It's not to say the eventual decisions made by the committee were bad.

On the contrary, (and most unexpectedly), the decisions themselves were just what (almost) everyone wanted.

But procedurally, it was dire.

There was a packed public gallery with about 60 people present.

Two of Fylde's most active and able planning protest groups - 'Wesham Action Group' and 'Warton Residents Against Poor Planning' were there in force, to speak against applications in Wesham and Warton.

Little did they, (or we), know at the start of the meeting, that we were about to be treated to one of the most procedurally awful planning meetings we've had the misfortune to attend

Most of the hiatus came about on Item 2 (an extension to the contentious 100 dwelling development that was eventually won on appeal at Wesham), and as far as we could see it came about because the Committee had one view which was not shared by the Chairman and Vice Chairman and, it would appear, some of the officers at the top table. We'll explain more about it under Item 2.

But first the meeting opened with the Chairman's introductory remarks.

This Chairman (Cllr Ben Aitken) makes it plain that he will take whichever proposition is made and seconded first, unless there is a proposition to defer the application, in which case he will take the vote on deferment first. That's a sensible approach, but there is a flaw, as we shall see.

The first astounding piece of news was that there were no less than five of the usual committee members who could not attend but had nominated another (planning trained) councillor to substitute for them. Cllr Armit was also unable to attend, but did not appear to have nominated a substitute.

It was very much *not* the usual committee that was operating.

 RIVERSLEIGH FARM - WARTON 
This item began as usual with the officer giving a brief outline of the application for the erection of 83 dwellings on greenfield countryside land, outside the settlement boundary, at Riverleigh Farm, Warton, together with his justification for recommending approval of the application.

So far so good.

But then we had a 30 minute debate about procedure for public speaking after the Chairman said that before they moved to the public speakers, he needed to advise everyone "There has been a move for deferment"

This was quite a surprise. Because there hadn't been.

Well, at least, there hadn't been any proposition moved in the meeting we were attending.

Then he added "by the Parish Council"

Oh Dear! it seemed as though we had a Parish Council being accorded the status of membership of the Development Management Committee and apparently being allowed to put forward propositions - in this case for deferment

The Chairman continued to say he knew the speakers were "all geared up for speaking today, but protocol on Development Management means that if you speak today, you're not allowed to speak again if the deferment vote is carried"

He continued - in a headmasterly tone, as though admonishing a recalcitrant pupil - "Now, I cannot stop you speaking today, but remember this. Once you have spoken, you will not be allowed to come back again."

He went on to say the reason for the deferment was actually a *request* from the Parish Council to enable a site visit to be made.

Procedurally, he then put things right when he said "Now, I will move the deferment vote, and I understand there is a seconder"

Cllr Julie Brickles from Warton said she would second the deferment, but wanted further clarification of the ruling on the public speaking aspects.

The Chairman said there was a mover and seconder for deferment, so he would explain to the speakers who might want to speak.

Addressing the public gallery, he said "The next meeting is 4th June and I'm fairly certain, pretty certain, this [application] will be on then. Clearly if you haven't got time to speak or its awkward for you to speak you're more than welcome to speak today. But remember this: Protocol states that you're not allowed to speak again on the matter"

At this point Cllr Mrs Oades asked "Are you saying if someone speaks this morning they can't speak on this item again?"

Chairman: "That's correct. That's the way we've always done it. We haven't changed. It's not a circumstance which has just been organised today"

Mr Evans (FBC Planning officer) advised that if something was changed between this meeting and the next one, members of the public could speak on the change, but not on the general issues.

Mrs Oades came back asking for a copy of the Protocol which she said had recently been revised, and she didn't recall seeing anything about people not speaking at two separate meetings.

There were hurried whisperings at the top table before the Chairman said "It's not actually in the revised (pause) Planning Code, that's nothing to do with it. It's a different item altogether. That's not me trying to be clever. the Proposed Planning Code is a totally different thing altogether from what we're talking about. It's not my ruling, its what I've been told should happen and yes, I think it's probably fair. But if you recall at the last Development management meeting we actually made that statement and it was at the Staining application whereby people came back to speak. we told them there and then, and the agent couldn't speak, and that was the same ruling then".

Cllr Peter Collins - always worth listening to - had spotted what was going on.

He noted that there were 5 substitute members today so if they heard the members of the public speak now, the people who would be on the Committee next time would be different and they would not have heard the public arguments.

We think he'd also spotted that a deferment now (with a committee that might be inclined to refuse permission) would put the decision on to a future meeting (where the decision might be more inclined to grant permission).

You can see where this was going dear reader, can't you.

The Chairman suggested that if the Committee didn't like this ruling on the deferment, they should put it forward at another meeting tomorrow that it wasn't a situation we wanted to keep and we want to change it. He was sure the Portfolio Holder would listen very carefully. He stressed several times that he didn't want the public to think they were being hoodwinked.

Cllr Alan Clayton asked was there no scope to waive the protocol that seemed to be causing the trouble? (in the same way that a Council can suspend its Standing Orders for some particular circumstance). He thought if they took a vote now to waive the Protocol that would solve the problem.

More hurried whispering at the top table.

Cllr Eastham broke the impasse by suggesting they took the vote for deferment first, then the public could decide whether they wished to speak today or at a future meeting.

The Chairman seized on that suggestion, and with a codicil from Cllr Brickles about the timing of the site visit to co-incide with the traffic disruption by Aerospace, the Chairman headed (thankfully) toward the vote.

But he was stopped by Cllr Collins who wanted to know exactly where the protocol would be discussed, because the meeting the following day was an advisory Steering Group meeting with no decision-taking powers.

The Chairman then astounded everyone present by saying "I'm suggesting you put it forward. I'm saying that, perhaps, the Portfolio Holder will listen to what you are saying, err, I mean, I've just been informed that I can actually overrule this, right, OK, at my discretion, - and (ironically) thanks very much for telling me, I appreciate it - so we'll take the vote first for deferment"

Which he did, and the result was unanimous.

He then turned to the public and said they could speak today if they wanted and he would exercise his discretion and allow them to speak again when the matter was considered at a future meeting.

Most speakers decided to take both opportunities.

We won't report them at this time except to say we thought they made some hard hitting points, and we hope to bring the matter to further light after the next meeting.

The point will not have escaped our readers that the first half hour of this meeting would not have been wasted if the Chairman had known what he was doing.

Then, after a short adjournment for a comfort break, we moved on to Item 2 - the Mowbreck Lane application

This is the one that cause all the procedural trouble.

 MOWBRECK LANE: INTRODUCTION 
The officer briefly introduced, and justified his recommendation to approve, 264 dwellings on land off Mowbreck Lane.

In essence there had been an initial application for this scale of development years ago. It had been refused by FBC, appealed, lost on appeal, tested in the high court and lost there. It was resubmitted on part of the same area for just 100 dwellings. This smaller development was won on appeal when FBC threw in the towel at the 11th hour.

Now that 100 dwelling scheme was back before the Committee as an enlarged 264 dwelling scheme, and very similar to the one refused many times before.

The Chairman said he had questioned why it had been submitted as a single scheme again, rather than an extension to the 100 that won permission on appeal

The answer he had been given was that it was a composite scheme probably because it makes the layout more flexible.

Then the public speakers against the scheme opened the batting

 Jackie Copley for CPRE 
Said it was high quality high productive land and protected by Agricultural Land conditions. She said FBC now had a five year supply of land, adding that the scale of this development was excessive, agricultural land should be considered important and FBC's Policy SP2 which constrains development to the settlement boundary should be respected.

 Pat Banks 
Is now a stalwart of applications and appeals. She said it would take 18 hectares and was very large. The visual impact on rural setting would be damaging to local community. There had been a 23% increase in dwellings in Wesham, and if granted, this would increase Wesham by 48%. Many large sites already with permission had not had a single brick laid. She argued that developers were listened to more readily than residents - a comment which audibly resonated with public gallery.

 John Smith 
Was his usual - wonderful - self.

Like Fred Dibnah or Mike Harding, this chap is walking common sense, so we're going to reproduce everything he said.

"I'm not here to talk about facts, studies, commissions, surveys.

What I'm going to say is truth and common sense.

I first got interested in this performance about four or five years ago. I came to the first meeting. This proposal was turned down, unanimously.

Turned down unanimously, by this Committee.

One Councillor even said if you build on this land, its criminal - or its a sacrilege - I dunno which word he used, but it were one o' them.

So it was turned down.

Went to appeal.

Government Inspector threw it out. No good.

So then; this lot are that desperate to get planning on this land, it went to the High Court.

Again - out the window

But would you believe, I couldn't believe it myself, it went to the Secretary of State or whatever he calls hiself, and *he* turned it down.

But we're still here talking about the same thing.

So, then, the developers had a new idea.

Put a smaller one in.

And it was turned down again - after a bit of a struggle, by this Committee.

So, further appeal.

But Fylde Borough, they didn't fight the appeal. Two days before the thing was heard, they backed off. Run out. Run away.

Under the influence of the 'Fiddler Mafia' it appeared to me.

So, that was passed.

But this Committee has never passed anything. This Borough Council has never passed any building permission up there.

What houses they've got, that hundred houses, was passed by a Government Inspector.

I believe Fylde didn't fight this appeal because it would have cost money.

They backed off.

And they still got saddled with how many thousands of pounds of costs.

A lot of money - for giving in !!

So much for that.

So we come to this 100 houses that you've got now.

I doubt if any of you've seen this yet.

Big sign - 12 by 8 - gone up on Fleetwood Road "New Development Shortly. One Hundred De-Luxe Three and Four Bedroomed Houses"

Just what we needed!

Magic!

And as 'planning officer said, this application has come along because it's "more flexible"

Well, you can draw your own conclusion on that.

There's space galore for houses - Pontins Holiday Camp.

And if the Government wants new houses, there's any amount of land to the east of Weeton Camp which has laid derelict for 20 or 30 or more years.

So we come to the development again.

These people [the agents] are only lackeys for the Trevor Hemmings multi-million pound empire who can pull strings all over the place.

I do believe, on this committee, there's enough of you here, with the decency and common sense, to do the same thing again.

You can do it in two words.

And 'second one's "off"

You can put your own prefix on."

Ordinary folk expect common sense decisions. The strength of feeling that Mr Smith had so ably demonstrated, illustrates that people are angry at the way the Localism has let them down. That sense of betrayal, that sense of being scorned by a Government (and its Planning Inspectorate) that are hell bent on 'growth at any cost', is producing furious reactions like this all across the land.

It's also partly why there has been a seismic shift in British politics. It is another factor that is driving the 'None of the above' agenda.

Next to speak was  Gerard Bilsborrow who said if the plans were passed it would destroy another bit of our countryside and put another nail in Mr Pickervance's coffin. He said David Cameron had promised to give more power back to local people. Well, he had a message for Mr Cameron. It was - "I aint going to listen to your lies any more"

 Bryce Galbraith  raised matters of sustainability and highways, especially the reduction of night service buses and he challenged the calculation of the sustainability store and highway matters. He concluded with a couple of lines from a poem by Philip Larkin called 'Going Going' - He said "And that will be England done. The shadows, the meadows, the lanes - and it concludes - all that remains for us will be concrete and tyres. Do you want that to be the epitaph for this site? The only thing that remains is to name the new development 'The Pastures' - somewhat ironic. Please refuse this."

 Harry Smith:  A lifetime resident of Wesham, argued that although the developer had said they would build the 100 houses won on appeal, he didn't think they intended to do so, and the 100 was only to get a foot in the door. He said that to build houses on the perimeter of a Biological Heritage Site would harm and disturb the wildlife there. He also argued that - using the applicants own figures - 1.2 billion litres of water (from roofs and cars and tarmac and paving and the rubber from car tyres) per year would recycle into the marsh and he was concerned that, with such a volume of water, impurities and contaminants could build up and damage the marsh.

Finally, the agent for the application -  Alexis de Pol  - spoke. He wanted to explain why the red edge was drawn where it was. He said it was about making the road exits as good as possible and it was a technical matter allowing access for the development that did not yet have permission to go through the site that did. He assured the committee there was a detailed drainage scheme that would not cause damage to the marsh.

He noted a lot of public objection, but said the policy background had significantly changed and, in the NPPF world, weight was no longer being given to conflict with out of date local plan countryside and agricultural land policies, with the presumption instead that decisions would be made in line with a presumption in favour of 'sustainable development'.

He said it was established at appeal that this was a sustainable site, and there were no grounds to refuse this application on the basis of loss of countryside and loss of agricultural land.

He said scale was no longer acceptable as a reason for refusal and the Government had said priority must be given to addressing housing shortages immediately.

He said the emerging draft local plan envisaged extensions to settlements and cited Warton where the extensions represented a 70% increase on the property there.

He concluded by saying that the council did not have a five year housing supply, and this housing shortfall has to be addressed immediately under the terms of the NPPF, adding that the evidence for the 2030 local plan shows the need for development on significant areas of countryside and agricultural land on the edge of settlements. He argued that the application site had been shown to be sustainable in previous appeals, and no statutory bodies objected. FBC had included the land as being potentially suitable for development and part of the site has been granted on appeal. He said there was no justification for going against the officer recommendation for approval.

That concluded the public speaking part of the meeting.

 THE FIVE YEAR SUPPLY 

The officers then presented the details of the application to the committee and explained why officers thought the development should be approved.

Notable at this point were Mark Evans' comments on housing supply, and how it should be calculated.

He said that an inspector had considered the approaches that had been taken by different bodies and considered "that the approach taken by the Council is a reasonable approach" (although we noted he didn't say it was the only one that could be taken!) in addressing the five year supply.

He (Mr Evans) said in his reading of this, (and we're going to stress here that it is his personal interpretation) the alternative interpretations advanced by CPRE and by local residents and by the developers, and by the Council - of all those methodologies, the Inspector preferred the Council's, and that's the one he stuck by.

That, at least, is Mr Evans' interpretation of matters.

Whether he is 'right' or not is a matter of opinion.

Whether senior officers in the planning department are being directed properly by councillors is also a matter of opinion.

As is the decision of the Inspector - which is only his or her opinion.

We have seen Inspector's decisions overturned by St Eric Pickles - the most common-sense Secretary of State we have known for a long time - perhaps most notably the Queensway one where the Inspector Mr Grainger recommended approval, and St Eric disagreed.

But even there, the Courts ruled that St Eric was wrong in some respects of his judgement.

The point we make here is that, until a Judicial Review has settled it, there *is* no right or wrong in these matters.

There is only judgement and opinion, and Mr Evans, or CPRE, or well informed residents for that matter, have equal access to judgement and opinion.

There is no divine right in planning.

Mr Evans went on to say CPRE had provided an assessment of housing supply based on an assumed housing requirement of 366 dwellings, but that figure has not yet been considered by any formal decision of the Council, and the decision of the portfolio Holder to support that number has been called-in.

"However", he went on "using that 366 figure, the CPRE say that we have a 5.4 year supply of housing land.

For me, just quickly looking at that, I come to the conclusion that using that figure, we either have a 4.7 year or a 4.1 year supply, depending whether you take a 5% allowance or a 20% allowance".

"The differences come from, first of all, there is no allowance for sites not coming forward, which the methodology adopted by the Council takes into account, and there is no addressing of the shortfall of housing delivered since the start of the plan period which was 2011."


"By calculating our own local figure, we can indeed not take account of the backlog.

Now, there's a difference between 'backlog' and 'shortfall' those are that 'backlog is houses that were not delivered during a previous plan period ie the RSS period from 2003 to 2021.

'Shortfall' is what's not been delivered since the start of the current plan period which is 2011.

So between 2011 and today there is a shortfall because we've not been delivering the 366 based on that calculation put forward by CPRE."


He suggested CPRE's figure of 5.4 years supply was "not actually correct"

He then went on to say that a 5 year supply was not a finishing post "because in order to stay ahead once it is achieved, the Council will have to keep approving applications - because houses get built and they are therefore not part of that supply, so as developers continue to build out sites, they no longer form part of the supply, and therefore we have to approve additional sites, so that is a moving target"

There was then a complicated argument with the Chairman, with Mr Evans saying that in his opinion, a 4.5 year supply figure was one they should use.

As we have seen above, our take on this matter is that there is no right and wrong, only opinion and judgement.

And what we think we see here is smoke and mirrors being used to obfuscate the situation that elected councillors have to try and pick their way amongst.

First, the officer says the 366 is not a valid figure, but then uses that same figure to 'prove' that a shortfall in delivery has occurred.

What Fylde's planning department seems to need are some councillors in charge who are properly directing their officers to respond to the wishes of their electorate.

 THE DEBATE OPENS 
The debate opened and Cllr Linda Nulty picked up the issue of the five year supply saying that the figure the officer has used was based on the position at 31 December (and it's now May) and they had granted more permissions in that time. Mr Evans agreed but said "at this time we don't have a figure for the end of March" (and it's now May). (See what we mean about being properly directed?)

She said she had been fighting to prevent development on this site for many years, she felt the report had set out to remove all the arguments that supported refusal.

She said last month they had refused an application at Staining for similar reasons, albeit that Wesham had a far greater landscape quality. She wondered why this application was for 264 dwellings when 100 of them already had approval. She thought the 100 houses might not be viable as a development on its own, in particular with regard to drainage, and the other 164 were needed to make the development work.

After she spoke, Mr Stell explained there was now a drainage plan showing how the 100 houses would be drained, and it included a new attenuation pond area which was, at present, being considered by United Utilities and the Environment Agency.

Cllr Alan Clayton spoke next. He said they were being forced into making decision on the five year supply, but Staining had been refused using arguments outside the five year supply. He spoke against the application, as he had done for the last 6 years. He rehearsed arguments for refusal in some detail.

Cllr Viv Wilder spoke next. She first wanted to know about which sites were included in the five year calculation. Then she asked which areas of the application site were being farmed and was told all of the land was being farmed. She then said "So if they're going to build on that there won't be any farmland left?" Mr Stell explained that within the development site there were two bungalows that would be demolished but the rest of the land would be developed excepting (for example) wildlife buffers and landscaped areas. Cllr Willder said she was concerned that they were losing agricultural land and it was especially important in Fylde.

She had another question. She wanted to know if the pond was natural or man-made like the Cypress Point one. The officer appeared to suggest that the drainage pond would only be needed if thee 100 dwelling scheme went ahead.

Cllr Willder looked decidedly unhappy. The body language seemed very negative.

This was potentially of crucial importance, because Cllr Willder is a Conservative member, and in recent times, such folk seem to have taken to following the lead of Cllr Fiddler when he is present at meetings (He was not at this one). This was the first Conservative member of the Development Management Committee at this meeting to 'break ranks' with the officer's recommendation, and potentially that was very significant.

We thought she spoke her mind, and we were pleased to see it.

Queen Elizabeth Oades was next to speak.

Warming to her topic as she got into her stride, she spoke with increasing passion, head tossing and eyes flashing, as she launched a Boudicean attack on Government which, she said, was destroying our countryside and farmland.

She said "The planning system we have now is a dog's dinner. As far as I'm concerned this Government have ruined planning, and I fear that if we get a Labour Government they will be even worse. I think it's high time that whichever Government we have in power, they should look at planning regionally, because it's not a one-size-fits-all, and the policies being chucked at us at the moment are relating to the South East.

There's a knee-jerk reaction with Government that housing is needed in the South East so they're bringing policies in which apply to the South East, but the don't apply to us. And they are absolutely stupid as far as I'm concerned with the way that they're dealing with planning. I think there has got to be some recognition. It's time we got rid of Mr Boles because he doesn't seem to have any sense at all when it comes to planning."

She then spoke of the specific's of this application. Referring to transport she said " We've got a loss of buses in the Wesham area. We have. We've lost three out of five services, and they're looking at withdrawing another one. This is at a time when we're talking about sustainability. They are removing bus services. They have to because the Government are cutting councils grant money. There isn't enough money to provide these services. The same Government that's telling us we have to have more housing is taking support away from Councils, and we're not able to support our communities by providing public transport.

We've also heard there is a 92% increase in car usage. Is that sustainable? Of course it's not sustainable.

We have a railway in Kirkham. Its a park and ride.

There's No Parking!

How on earth can it be a park and ride when there's no parking?

And I represent people who can't park outside their homes, they have disables wives and cannot get disabled badges for because the Government won't let them have them because the wife can't drive.

Again. What on earth are we doing with policy.

And we're saying that this
[development] is sustainable.

It isn't sustainable.

We're hearing about queuing all the way back from the motorway. We that live there see this every day. It's not sustainable.

We're being continually asked to increase, increase, increase, housing that isn't sustainable because our infrastructure is not fit to take it.

And yet the Government isn't listening.

It's saying YOU WILL TAKE MORE HOUSING.

This cannot be right. It cannot be right. And I'm going to finish now by saying if it's good enough for Staining (the ward of a Conservative Cabinet Portfolio Holder), its good enough for Wesham.

I really do believe we should refuse this application today, and I hope that those people that voted to refuse the Staining application will vote to refuse this one today."


She finished to loud and sustained applause from the public gallery.

At this point the Vice Chairman, Cllr Eastham spoke.

He began by saying a lot of what Cllr Oades had said he did not disagree with, but the difficulty they all found themselves in was that Government were saying that houses were needed. He said that when he was a youngster there were on average 4 people per dwelling. There are now about 2.4 people per dwelling, with an awful lot of empty bedrooms. He said the population of Wesham probably hasn't increased much over the....... at which this point he was overwhelmed with cries of disagreement and "rubbish!" from the public gallery - which he attempted to quell by saying "I'm giving you the statistics" (by which we assume he meant the Census figures)

He went on "As a Council we have to accept, and I think everyone around this room's been party to the fact that, yes, we should go for brownfield development, yes, we should look at fortuitous things that come along like when a church closes, but we have all accepted as well that the housing requirement placed upon Fylde by Government, cannot be met solely by brownfield development. And I think even CPRE have accepted that there has got to be some green field development."

He went on to explain why he thought (policy aside) this was a well laid-out development before suggesting the Committee would be better keeping control of the conditions by approving the application rather than have an appeal make the decisions on conditions.

  IT STARTS TO GO WRONG 
And with that he said "I am willing to propose we accept the officer's recommendations, and that permission is granted."

At this point Cllr Mrs Speak moved refusal.

Then the Chairman said he would second Cllr Eastham's approval.

He said "If this goes to appeal, we've already had 100,000 bill from the.... and if it goes to an appeal the Inspector will look at this and say - What are you playing at?"

Shouting down his committee he said "You've got to be pragmatic, members. And incidentally, in the statement it says low priority is given to agriculture. That appears in the statements in the .... [His voice trailing off]

He then said "It's Cllr Speak followed by Cllr Jaques followed by Cllr Collins"

Cllr Speak said "Well, if I wasn't depressed before, I am now. I'd like to move refusal on this application"

This was followed by a short discussion as to whether someone had already moved refusal.

Cllr Nulty appeared to say someone had. The Chairman said he had not heard it moved for refusal.

Cllr Speak continued, and outlined her arguments for refusal, then said "this [application] is a bit like the Vicar of Dibley - No. No. No. Yes". Adding that she was going to support a refusal on this application. She extolled the virtues of the countryside and farmland and concluded "I just feel like we're being put under pressure and I bet everybody around this table agrees with me, but they daren't vote refusal, Chairman. And if we go to appeal; so be it. Because if we can't stand up for what we believe in, it's a sad day, and what's the point of us having these meetings. Thank you"

Independent Cllr Peter Collins said "Well it's all nonsense isn't it? The Government's tinkering with figures, saying we need a five year supply, but in the last returns, there were only a hundred and odd houses being built in Fylde in a year. So a five year supply at 300 and odd a year, isn't a five year supply, its a fifteen year supply. Why do we have to grant permission now for houses that might be built in 15 years time. It's all a nonsense."

He also argued that for transport you shouldn't look at sites in isolation, there was a cumulative effect close to motorway links. Citing Preston, Wyre and Blackpool he said "Everybody's building houses that there's no need for now. It's time we stood up and said This Is Nonsense. This Is Rubbish. It's time the Conservatives on this committee told their own party that they've got it wrong. And now's the time to do it. Now's the time to stand up"

 THE TIPPING POINT FOR REFUSAL IS REACHED 

Cllr Pounder from Staining spoke next. He said "I'm in the somewhat difficult position of being Ward Councillor for Staining which we've all heard mentioned this morning. I was privy to a refusal of a planning application in my ward, which I totally agreed with. And I'm afraid I have to agree with this one as well. This original application was for 264 houses. That was refused right the way to appeal for the 264 houses which is what you've got here. What you then got was an application for a smaller, 100 houses which we lost on appeal and had to pay costs out for. What you've got here is a greed situation. This is the applicant wanting more" He went on to explain the previous stages right up to the high court, which was still refused. He concluded "I cannot do anything but support refusal"

This was a monumental decision and we thought this was the point at which the application was lost.

It seemed to us that after Cllr Pounder spoke, there was likely to be a majority in favour of refusal.

Others will have seen this as well, and what followed was truly awful.

Other speakers spoke on various aspects. Cllr Hardy said "We should not be blackmailed with the threat of costs" and "The planning system in this country is a complete shambles" and "It's in a total mess and we don't know whether we are coming or going."

The Chairman then said "Following the recent protocol decisions, the Code of Conduct I was looking at. The first thing I have to do is ask the proposer and seconder of refusal to have a short discussion with the planning officers. I've also got another decision where I ask for a deferment if I think that the application is going to be refused at this particular point..... I think that the application will be refused. I have done a head count and I do not see any point in going forward with the application for approval. So what I'm going to do now, I'm going to ask the proposer and seconder of refusal to have a short adjournment to take place in the room behind here. I know Lyndsey is giving me lots of kicks under the table that I should be going for the application to be looked at for approval, but under the circumstances, I think it may be prudent to withdraw for ten minutes for the proposer Cllr Oades and Cllr Nulty to have a short .... to come up with reasons for refusal, and then to make the statement for the reasons for refusal before we take the vote for approval. Now, just a minute, I'm just going to have a chat with Councillor... with, Lyndsey, because she's giving me....... [Long Pause whist officer speaks with Chairman]

We (and everyone else we suspect) were stunned by the Chairman's announcement.

We simply couldn't make any sense of it.

Although many people had spoken against approving the application, we had not heard a single proposition to refuse the application before Cllr Eastham said "I am willing to propose we accept the officer's recommendations, and that permission is granted." This was followed immediately by Cllr Mrs Speak's move for refusal and that was immediately followed by the Chairman himself who seconded Cllr Eastham's 'proposition'. Cllr Mrs Speak's proposition had not been seconded as far as we could see.

Procedurally, this meeting had turned into a disaster.

Technically Cllr Eastham had not actually made a proposition (he had only said he would be willing to do so). That is close enough to be let through we suppose, but a better Chairman would have clarified it before offering to second it, and they would have stopped Cllr Mrs Speak from making a counter proposition (the effect of which could have been achieved by voting against a proposition for approval).

But what the Chairman had announced simply made no sense at all. (Unless, that is, you take it that if he thought the application might be refused, he would personally propose deferment in order to ensure a different incarnation of the committee considered it next time.)

 AN ADJOURNMENT IS CALLED (OR IS IT?) 

And it didn't get any better when the Chairman then said "We're going to have a five minute adjourn... can I just make sure I've got the two names of the proposer.... and seconder for refusal."

At this point we thought we heard Cllr Clayton say he was the proposer and Cllr Nulty was the seconder.

We have to say we didn't hear that to be the case, but perhaps it was so quiet it was almost inaudible.

Cllr Nulty said she wanted to second it and would have done so but "having been through an appeal, and sat there being accused of bringing this council into disrepute, into costs of 100,000 I did not want to move the refusal until I got the feeling of the meeting. And I think that's an important thing to note because we are under pressure and I'm the last one to be put under pressure. That's how I felt this morning so I would have moved it, so I'm happy to second it. I'd also like to point out that we keep being told that [Policy] SP2 is out of date, but I'd like to point out that I've got a piece of paper her that says that our officers are using SP2 in an appeal on Oaklands Caravan Park. So if the officers can use it, sorry..... but we can use it."

The Chairman then called Cllr Akeroyd to speak (so the procedure to adjourn was once more out of the window and the debate was back on).

Referring to a line on the plan, she said "That aqueduct, is that for drinking water?" Someone replied "Yes" to which she continued "The Hodder Aqueduct, supplies drinking water to this area does it?" Someone muttered "Blackpool". The officer clarified that it passed through the site and didn't serve the site in any way. Cllr Ackeroyd continued "So it just supplies the Blackpool people for their water does it?" The officer conformed this was the case.

The Chairman then announced they were adjourning for five minutes, and said "Please, Committee, Excuse Me (shouting over the adjournment hubbub to make himself heard). Excuse me, Cllr Brickles. Very important this please. Very important. Very Important" (as though saying it three times increased its importance) "At the last. At the last meeting of the DM, we were accused of conversing with other people. Please, if you're going to talk amongst yourselves, fine. Be careful, and I'm sorry if anybody is objecting about talking to the councillors, we have had an embarrassing situation where we've been accused of conversing with objectors and that has... please, that's all I'm saying, Cllr Brickles. I know. I know. I know"

Cllr Brickles responded "We can talk to people...." but was spoken over by the Chairman who said "Of course you can, but remember it might be used, it might be used....."

We were put in mind of 'Yoda' in 'Star Wars' who also had a particular (but different) way of saying things.

And with that the meeting did adjourn.

 CALLED TO ORDER AGAIN 

It was later called to order by the Chairman who said "Right ladies and gentlemen thank you for being so patient. Can I have five hands for a recorded vote please" (as though a member of his committee had asked for a recorded vote, which they had not).

He continued "So what we're going to do first of all is to take the proposal which is in front of us first which is of course, erm number 4, the officers recommendation and that was for delegated powers, power to grant planning permission delegated to the Head of Planning and Regeneration subject to what's on that page, 61. so er, Lyndsey will read out the names and its either for or against - for approval or against approval."

What had been a shambles had now become an utter farce.

The Chairman had previously indicated he had accepted a proposition to refuse and it had been seconded (even though as far as we could see it had not).

He appeared to have ignored the Vice Chairman's intended proposition (which he himself had seconded) just as he had ignored Cllr Mrs Speak's properly construction proposition to refuse permission albeit that had not been seconded.

Instead, he appears to have substituted the officers recommendation from the order paper which, as far as we could see, no one had specifically proposed.

Procedurally this was utter insanity.

The Committee Clerk said "Thank you Chairman, just to further clarify, this is for the.. page 61 of the order papers which states that the power to grant planning permission be delegated to the Head of Planning and Regeneration subject to all the details on page 61 and the conditions and including all the conditions attached to that item and with reference to any additional matters in the Late Observations Schedule. The Proposer was Cllr Eastham, Vice Chair, and the seconder was Councillor Aitken. So I'll ask you to either state whether you're voting for approval or against approval, or wish to record your abstention."

Well. it was, at last, clear what was going on.

During the intermission they had changed Cllr Eastham's "I am willing to propose we accept the officer's recommendations, and that permission is granted" to become the wording read out by the Committee Clerk above.

We're a bit of stickler for detail and we wouldn't have had that at all.

It's not up to the Chairman or to officers to rephrase what a Councillor has proposed, but that's where we were heading, it seemed.

We know this Committee Clerk of old, and have respect for her ability. We can see she was making the best of the mess that had been dumped in her lap, and was just about within the spirit of proper procedure, if not the letter of it.

But then things got even worse.

 THE VOTE ON APPROVAL IS LOST 

The recorded vote showed as follows

For the officer's recommendation for approval
The Chairman, Cllr Aitken
The Vice Chairman, Cllr Eastham

Against the officer's recommendation for approval
Cllr Collins
Cllr Hardy
Cllr Nash
Cllr Nulty
Cllr Pounder
Cllr Speak
Cllr Willder
Cllr Oades
Cllr Jaques
Cllr Brickles
Cllr Ackroyd
Cllr Clayton

Abstain
Cllr Redcliffe

So that was two for, and the whole committee - except Cllr Redcliffe - against.

So where did that leave us?

Well, the decision had been made not to approve the officers recommendation.

But as yet there was no decision as to what *should* be done. (Because a vote 'not to approve' is not the same as a vote to refuse). A refusal, or some other course of action still needed to be proposed, seconded, and voted on.

 IT GETS EVEN WORSE - A DEFERMENT IS PROPOSED 

What followed was, in our opinion a shabby and disgraceful rearguard action on the part of the top table and, it appeared, some officers, to circumvent the will of the committee whose mind was clearly set on refusing the application.

The Chairman said "OK so that was lost, and subject to our recent Code of Conduct, I am going to propose a deferment because we need to look at the reasons for refusal, and the officers need to look at other reasons that have been put forward to get robust reasons for refusal cemented into the ground so that we can actually come back at the next meeting and give the good reasons for refusal. So I am proposing a deferment today" and Cllr Eastham added "And I'm seconding that."

The Chairman said "OK, I'm going to go straight into the vote. Cllr Oades?" (who had her hand up to speak and said) "Well can I ask a question?"

The Chairman said "Yes. Right. OK." and Cllr Mrs Oades said "Will we have to go through the whole debate for the next meeting, and could we have a different vote in place?, because I'm totally opposed to this, and I think people ought to be aware of what could happen, because we have a group of people who are on this committee today who appear to be in favour of refusing this application, and at the next meeting we could find a different 'scenario' in the words of the Portfolio Holder, whereby we might see pressure put on for approval. So I really am a little bit worried about this"

Stunned silence prevailed as the truth dawned on the committee.

This course of action had been cooked up during the adjournment in order to do exactly what Queen Elizabeth had described.

The Chairman and Vice - possibly with complicit officers was attempting to circumvent the will of this democratically elected committee by delaying the decision until another date and a differently composed committee.

They say power corrupts. Our take on what was going on here did nothing to detract from that view.

What we had here was a Chairman and Vice who saw themselves as sheepdogs - worrying their flock to a particular pen.

Little did they know that they were about to be bitten by the sheep.

However well intentioned they were, it is most definitely NOT the role of the Chairman and Vice to attempt to corral members in this way.

The Chairman's role is to keep order (which he did not), to make things clear (which he did not), to support and encourage views contributions from committee members (which he did not do), and to secure the best consensus he can from his committee (which he did the opposite of).

We watched with growing sadness as things got even worse.

The Chairman called Cllr Nulty who said that was exactly what she expressed to everybody in the other room. She said the view was overwhelmingly for refusal and she would hope that carried some weight forward to the next meeting which she had been told was the way forward to get substantial reasons for refusal.

The Chairman said he had been asked to ask Cllr Clayton and Cllr Nulty just to give a brief outline of the reasons so that the officers can help you determine those, so can you just,.... quickly,.... give a brief, a very brief, outline of what you think you'd be looking for as reasons for refusal.

Cllr Clayton (who as far as we can ascertain had never actually proposed refusal) said there were two fundamental reasons that needed to be explored in more detail. Cllr Nulty added some more.

The Chairman called Mr Stell (the case officer) to speak. He said he had made a note of the reasons given, and he said there were others that had been raised around the table on which guidance from officers might be sought.

Yippee!, we thought.

Here was an officer that appeared to be prepared to do his job properly. He was offering to help the elected councillors phrase their refusal in professional planning language.

 AN AMENDMENT IS OUTLINED 

Then Cllr Oades spoke again. She said "I would prefer it if we had a 'minded to refuse' subject to discussion between Chair, Vice Chair, Officers and ward councillors. I really am a little bit concerned that we could find a different decision being made at the next meeting and that would cause an awful lot of bad feeling, with those of us serving on the Committee today, and also with the public I think. So I'd prefer it if we could have a 'Minded to refuse'"

Cllr Peter Hardy said "I'll second that"

Cllr Nulty said "We discussed that when we went out, but I believe that's not a legal situation"

Sensing it going the 'wrong' way, the Chairman said "I've put forward the deferment proposal and it's been seconded and I'm going to go to that vote now. Do you want a recorded vote for deferment, or is a show of hands quite sufficient?"

Here again he was forcing the issue against the will of his Committee. It never works, and he should have known better.

What happened in these circumstances is what nearly always happens against a united committee. They vote down all the options before it, until there is only one option (in this case, refusal) left.

Unable to carry the committee with him, he tried again saying "A deferment of course is to give us a little bit of breathing space to look at the issues that have been outlined a few minutes ago."

Cllr Brickles, the Yorkshire Terrier, was not a happy bunny (if a terrier can be a bunny as well). She had her teeth into it. She wanted more clarification about exactly what they were doing. She asked if it was going to the next committee?

The Chairman spoke over her and said "Well, if the vote is lost we'll have to be dealing with it now. So deferment is to have a break of a number of weeks to look at the issues that have been raised as concerns, and then for the two people to come back and put forward their points of view in a robust manner. So, if you don't like that idea, then I suggest that you refuse the deferment and then well have to have a lengthy break to go through the reasons for refusal, maybe over lunchtime."

Cllr Clayton spoke again and said "I'm sorry chairman, is there no opportunity her for us to simply express a refusal in principle so that we've got that already on the table. And if that is then carried, it is at that stage that the officers would discuss... we've already outlined what those reasons for refusal are, so surely we should be able to home in on those issues with the knowledge that this committee has been minded to refuse. It doesn't need to be deferred."

The Chairman said that if the deferment vote was lost, then yes, [that's what would happen]

The Chairman called the vote on deferment by a show of hands.

The Committee Clerk said they were going to look at the reasons identified by Cllr Nulty and further identified by Mr Stell.

Cllr Mrs Nulty sought clarification. She said they might want to defer for a certain length of time but not for the full month....

The Chairman interrupted her and said it was deferring to the next meeting.

Cllr Mrs Nulty said "But the reasons for refusal are the same"

And the meeting descended into chaos and civic anarchy.

The Chairman had lost order until Mr Evans said he would clarify where they were at the moment.

We could see exactly where they were. The Chairman at least, and probably the Vice Chairman and maybe one or more officers were trying to fool the Committee into accepting an unnecessary deferment in order to reverse the will of this committee when the 'first XI' were batting at the next meeting.

It was a move doomed to failure.

Mr. Evans said "There has been a motion put forward to grant planning permission, and that was clearly lost. In such circumstances we then, without any deferral - the usual way we do it is, we take a substantive vote on the reasons for refusal.

Now, at this moment in time, we haven't got reasons for refusal on the table. We've something akin to Heads of Terms, but there's not a decision made by this committee to refuse at the moment.

The proposal put forward by the Chairman and seconded by the Vice Chairman is that in accordance with the Code of Conduct, sorry Protocol that we was looking at introducing, it was considered by members of this committee previously, which put forward a suggestion that when the committee make a decision contrary to the officer's recommendation, that there is a period of time to examine those potential reasons for refusal in more detail.

So that's what's been put forward at the moment.

Obviously there's been some concern expressed to the fact that there are a number of substitutes here today, as to whether, when we come back, there would be a different decision made. But that will obviously be part of the consideration in deferring the application."


Cllr Nulty said it was important that a refusal vote was taken today.

Sensing his inevitable defeat the Chairman summoned his legal officer who said "From a legal point of view the situation is at the moment that this committee has decided that it cannot support the officer's recommendation and has voted against the Officer's recommendation to approve the application. We're now in a situation where members have raised a series of issues which have been identified now as five particular areas that they require further information on and details from officers with a view to establishing putative reasons for refusal. There has been a motion to defer this meeting until the next meeting which has been moved and seconded by the Chair and Vice Chair on the table at the moment which needs to be voted on. That deferment would be for those reasons and then the matter would come back to committee to be voted on in those terms. Now what committee decides to vote on at that further consideration in a month's time will be for that committee at that time to consider, and there can be no fettering of that decision-making process. And that is what's on the table at the moment. Any further outcome of the vote that will have to be taken shortly will have to be considered, and if something else, a further motion were to be put on the table then that will be taken in the normal way."

The Chairman said "Thank you, I'm moving to the vote please because we could go on forever"

Cllr Hardy asked about Cllr Oades' amendment.

The Chairman said that if the movement for deferment is lost then by all means we'll move to that.

Oh Dear!

We were not sure Cllr Oades had moved an actual amendment, but it was probably as much of an amendment as Cllr Eastham's had been a proposition.

And here was the Chairman saying he would not allow the amendment to be taken until AFTER the vote had been taken (and lost!) on the resolution it was seeking to amend.

Rarely are we treated to such incompetent chairing of a meeting - even at Fylde.

In our view this was more than incompetent, it was procedurally incorrect, and probably ultra-vires.

The Council is bound to follow both the law, and its own constitution. The latter requires that when an amendment is proposed, debate on the original proposition ceases, and a new debate opens on the amendment.

That second debate has to be discharged by a vote, before the original wording (or its amended version, if the amendment succeeded) is voted on as the substantive motion.

But here, that process was sidelined in order to take a vote on deferment.

 THE VOTE TO DEFER IS LOST 

The Chairman called the vote and said "All those for deferment for the reasons given please show"

And with that, the vote to defer was taken.

In our view this was procedurally wrong. The Chairman had said if a vote for deferment was proposed, it would be taken ahead of a proposition for refusal or approval.

That is his prerogative, and in many ways it is a sensible way to deal with most things. But not an amendment.

We were singularly unimpressed with the process to arrive at a vote, but not surprised at the result.

The vote was: for deferment 7, and against deferment 9.

So now we had reached the bottom of the heap, just as expected.

This always happens when a Chairman tried to bully a committee into a particular course of action.

Committees too, can bite.

So what we left with was:

  • a vote that refused to approve the application, and
  • a vote not to defer the decision to the next meeting

Ergo, of course, there was only one avenue left.

A vote to refuse the application.

 THE LONG DEBATE ABOUT REFUSAL 

The Chairman announced lunch, during which officers and some members would thrash out the reasons for refusal that would be voted on, and after lunch that vote would take place.

But Queen Elizabeth was (understandably, in our view) in wary mode. She wanted to know why they were not taking the vote to refuse there and then.

She said her amendment to say there were minded to refuse had not been taken as the Chairman had promised.

She said "I have put that. It has been seconded, can I please ask that you take the vote.""

Confusion reigned.

Cue a lot of discussions amongst those on the top table.

Then the Chairman said "OK. If Cllr Oades' proposal has been seconded is put forward, the proposers of the previous refusals have to withdraw their.... otherwise we have to make the vote on purely for reasons for refusal"

Once again this made no sense at all to us and, judging by the stunned looks on the faces of the committee, not to them either.

Then the Chairman asked who was Cllr Oades' seconder.

She said it was Cllr Hardy.

The Chairman then said, "it's straightforward, all you've got to do Cllr Clayton and Cllr Nulty is just withdraw your proposals for refusal, and then we'll go straight to Cllr Oades'....... [his voice tailed off]"

Cllr Mrs Oades saw the situation more clearly.

She pointed out their [Cllr Clayton and Cllr Nulty's] proposition sat on the table - implying that it should not be withdrawn - and if her amendment failed, then their original proposition would become the substantive motion to be voted on.

If they had been persuaded to withdraw it, it would no longer be on the table to vote on.

We can only say God Bless councillors with the experience of Queen Elizabeth. Where would we be without folk like her who understand procedure almost as well as any officer, and better than the Chairman of the committee on which she was serving - unless of course, he knew what he was doing and was trying to outwit the Committee yet again into not refusing the application.

He's have to get up earlier in the morning to do that with Queen Elizabeth!

Mr Evans attempted to explain what was happening, but didn't improve the situation a great deal.

The Chairman then handed control of the meeting to the proposer and seconder of refusal, saying "What do you want to do? Do you want to go straight to the reasons for refusal - in which case I suggest - just a minute please Cllr Brickles - in which case I suggest that you have a recess to go over it with the officers, or do you want to withdraw - there's nothing wrong with that - because Cllr Oades has put forward a reasonable motion"

We heard one councillor say "Now I'm completely confused"

Cllr Nulty said "I understood Cllr Oades' amendment was so that we could take our time to get reasons for refusal sorted out properly with officers"

Attempting, gently, to regain control of the meeting for the Chairman, the small still voice of the Committee Clerk attempted to dispel the confusion. She said "Chairman, it does get confusing for members of the public who aren't clear. We're trying to get some common ground here. Some time ago, Cllr Clayton and Cllr Nulty moved refusal of this application. That is still sat on the table, and that needs to be disposed of, and the Chairman has outlined the procedures for dealing with propositions at the commencement of the meeting, so as the Chairman has alluded to, either the proposer and seconder either need to withdraw that amendment. Once its withdrawn we can then move on to Cllr Mrs Oades' proposition."

Sadly, we simply did not agree with her, nor had her contribution - on this occasion - made things more clear.

She had accepted that Cllr Oades contribution as legitimate, but was treating it as a separate proposition, not as an amendment.

Cllr Oades had specifically said it was an amendment and, as such, the Council's procedure rules (which had not been suspended) required the amendment to take precedence in the voting.

In any case, it was an amendment because it altered the wording of the proposition.

The proposition had been for refusal and the amendment sought to change the wording to "minded to refuse"

Confusion reigned once more in the meeting.

Cllr Clayton said to the Chairman "Could you possibly read out what you've got on the table, what Cllr Oades is proposing as an amendment" But then confusingly added "as a proposition"

The Chairman said "Cllr Oades, can you make your statement please"

Cllr Mrs Oades said "Can I try and make things simpler. Would it be easier if Cllr Clayton substituted his proposition with my amendment. Thereby he can put forward a refusal subject to discussion between the Chair, the Vice Chair, the officers and the two ward members. If he wishes to substitute that for the refusal, I am quite happy then to allow him to substitute that. We all then may know where we're coming from and we can move forward - and get some lunch."

We were less than happy with this (albeit well intentioned) suggestion from Cllr Oades.

Firstly, it was procedurally wrong. You can't substitute a proposed and seconded motion with something else unless it has been voted on as an amendment to that motion.

Secondly, it left the 'minded to' option as the only proposition on the table.

That prevented the more definite and basic 'refusal' being the fall-back position if the amendment failed.

But Cllr Clayton said he was happy to agree to it.

The Chairman said "Good"

A member of the public shouted "We were expecting this refusal to be recorded Mr Chairman" and was shouted down by the Chairman who said " We are entirely, everything is going according to what you want, don't worry. Don't worry. OK. Who was the seconder for that.... for your...."

Cllr Nulty said "It was me"

The Chairman said "in that case then, you're quite happy with that? Subject to discussions with... Yeah? OK?"

The Committee Clerk again tried to make the matter clear "Cllr Clayton and Cllr Nulty can you just rehearse that one more time for the benefit of the committee and the members of the public what your proposition is?"

Cllr Clayton said "The proposition - in any words that you wish - is that we're refusing the application subject to discussions with the ward members, the officer, to determine precisely the reasons for refusal - that sums it up - Oh yes the Chairman and the Vice Chairman too"

The Vice Chairman spoke. He said "It seems to me what's been said is that you've been minded to approve [corrected] refuse, which is you're minded to go contrary to the officer's recommendation, subject to certain things. Now, you're into difficulties. Are you... You can't both refuse it in a way it can't be overturned and make it subject to certain things. Equally, you want to be satisfied - I assume - that what the officers come forward with, might even need to be tested by a barrister, you feel is sufficiently watertight to go forward. Now which of these options do you want? Do you want to take that risk of saying it's going to be refused and we'll think of some reasons and the consequences might be disastrous and draconian, or do you want to say - we're minded to go along this route so long as we're satisfied having further discussions so that what comes forward is at least watertight to your satisfaction. You can't have it both ways, and you've got to decide which you want."

Cllr Clayton responded "If I re-word this to say that I'm proposing that we refuse this application based on the five points that have been already indicated to Mr Stell. The fine tuning of that is then going to be subject to a discussion between the Chairman, the Vice Chairman, the ward members and the officers. So I'm actually quoting what the reasons for refusal are, and that would be my proposition. Which I think Cllr Nulty..."

At which point he was interrupted by the Chairman who said "Cllr Clayton, Cllr Nulty, I'm not happy with what's on the table at all. I think."

We were appalled at this. If a councillor moves and someone else seconds, it is not the job of the Chairman to try to browbeat those councillors into withdrawing or changing what they have said. It is appalling chairmanship.

But then he seemed to capitulate and said: "To be honest with you, I think the most.... you want to take the vote today, correct? I think the most sensible thing to do is what we've agreed in the past. Go into the room [behind] and if it takes an hour it takes an hour. Go into the room and flog it out with the officers and come to the table, give reasons for the refusal. let the members vote on it. If it only takes five minutes that's fine. Let the members vote on it and while you're discussing that, we'll have lunch. Agreed? Right. In that case.... and please Committee, please be advised there are people around who will erm, note, please, I know its a bit of an awkward... I'm not.... I'm trying not to sound fascist. Be careful what you say. Be careful who you speak to. Please be aware that - people in the audience - we've had complaints in the past about members speaking to protestors. It's awkward. OK? Thank you. We'll come back whenever it's convenient.

And with that the meeting broke for lunch (or sorting out some wording with officers if you were the proposer or seconder of the motion).

 THE VOTE TO REFUSE 

After lunch the proposition to refuse was put and a recorded vote taken. The result was

For refusal of the application (10):
Councillors Julie Brickles, Alan Clayton, Peter Collins, Peter Hardy, Barbara Nash, Linda Nulty, Elizabeth Oades, Albert Pounder, Heather Speak, Vivienne M Willder

Against refusal of the application (2):
Councillors Ben Aitken, Kevin Eastham

Abstentions (3)
Councillors Christine Akeroyd, Angela Jacques, Richard Redcliffe

We were please to see the eventual cross party support for this decision, despite the abstentions. It shows that at least some of the majority party members are prepared to vote with their consciences, and we applaud them for doing so.

It may be pure co-incidence, but we have seen a note added to the FBC web pages recently which says "Please note any minutes published on the website should be regarded as being in draft form only until they have been formally accepted by a subsequent meeting of the committee as a correct record."

Hmmmmm.

 3. WESTBROOK NURSERIES, DIVISION LANE 
The meeting continued with a sad item about a chap who had been living in a mobile home that had long since being mobile and which had for many years had the benefit of a temporary planning permission for residential use in conjunction with a plant nursery.

The applicant wanted to make the residential permission permanent so he could build a proper house there. The problem was it was on land designated as Green Belt

The nursery hade become run down by the previous owner and the applicant has taken it over, clearing broken glad and tumbledown greenhouses and restoring the nursery to productive capacity.

We could see hearts reaching out to him for the hard work he had put in to restore the land, but the overriding principle of no development in the green belt won the day.

Sad, but probably right.

So there we have it, a truly awfully conducted meeting that had the right outcome in the end.

As we said at the outset, much of the problem was because the Committee had one mind and the Chairman and Vice took the opposite view, and the Chairman, at least, sought to make his view prevail over that of the Committee. They bit back, and were having none of it.

It's called democracy and we're proud of those who supported and defended it at this meeting.

Dated:     28 May 2014


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