Council 'disappointed' at accusations of 'lack of transparency' and 'secrecy'

By Kevin Black in Planning

Tandridge District Council has hit back at accusation of ‘lack of transparency’ and ‘secrecy’ surrounding a Local Plan Working Group formed of councillors and officers which has been set up by the Council, with the agreement of the Planning Policy Committee, to guide officers in the preparation of all aspects of the Local Plan.

The Oxted and Limpsfield Residents Group, (OLRG), which has two Councillors on the District Council claims Ward Councillors are being excluded from developer meetings raising secrecy concerns.

The OLRG says District Councillors representing the five possible Green Belt locations for a new settlement are being excluded from meetings between the Council and the developers involved.

Instead, these meetings are being attended only by Council officers and a special group of five Councillors-Councillor Martin Fisher, Leader of the Council, Councillor Peter Bond, Chairman of the Planning Policy Committee, Councillor Keith Jecks, Vice-Chairman of the Planning Policy Committee, Councillor Chris Botten, Leader of the Opposition and Councillor Gill Black, Chairman of the Council.

A statement issued by the OLRG says: “ We are very concerned about this lack of transparency and that it now appears to be accepted practice to exclude local ward Councillors from meetings with developers regarding proposals that will have a significant impact on their constituents.

“Attempts by Councillor Liz Lockwood (Lingfield & Crowhurst) to be involved in meetings regarding her ward were rebuffed at the meeting of the Council’s Planning Policy Committee.

“At the meeting, Tandridge District Council approved a further delay to its contentious Local Plan in order to undertake a consultation on the five possible Green Belt locations for the new settlement it wants to build. We are determined to fight the unnecessary and unjustified release of Green Belt being proposed by the Council.

Helena Windsor of Bletchingley, former Surrey County Councillor for Godstone said:”The District Council appears to have excluded Councillors representing the wards where five possible locations are being considered for a new town, from meetings between the Council and the developers involved. At least one request from a concerned Councillor has been refused.

“This lack of transparency has been evident from the beginning, when unminuted meetings were held between council planning officers and Taylor Wimpey over the Blindley Heath site – which then envisaged 2,000 homes on a Greenbelt floodplain, not 4,000.”

Ms Windsor, who just been elected chairman of Surrey UKIP, says she continues to keep her pledge to residents to fight against development on Tandridge’s Metropolitan Greenbelt.

In reply a statement from Tandridge District Council says: The Working Group has recently been involved in hearing presentations from developers promoting their ideas for developing garden village sites, in preparation for the full public consultation later in the summer.

“The minutes of these meetings are sent to all councillors and published on-line with the committee papers. It would not be practical to invite all ward councillors along. However, as the plan progresses, there will be many opportunities for ward councillors to be involved.

“We are disappointed this has been portrayed as lacking transparency and as if we are hiding things.”

Photo shows Helena Windsor

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