The issue is around a Planning Application for a brownfield site in our village. I chair a community group trying to establish a community shop in the village - included in the site owners development proposals. A majority of the PC object to the proposals despite a public meeting (140 people attended out of a population of 760) which was overwhelmingly in favour. The site owner had advised that as an alternative he was considering selling the site to a group of travellers - quoting the many objections from the Parish Council over the past 10 years plus to his planning applications. As I chaired the public meeting at which this information was made public a number of Cllrs drafted the statement in the minutes of a Parish Council meeting.
The contents of the e-mail I sent - widely distributed around our local community and on which the PC based its comments is shown below:
In both my roles with the Fair Committee and with the Shop Steering Group I have from time to time had contact with the owner of the quarry and his agents. Most recently the Shop Steering Group has been considering an offer from the owner (Dr Burston) to transfer, freehold, a plot of land on Station Road and a substantial sum of money to build a community shop/cafe. Although not the Steering Groups first choice for a shop site we have been held up with planning whilst the wider Planning Application for the development of a "retirement village" in the quarry was considered by SKDC. The Parish Council sent its (majority vote) objections to SKDC on 19 Feb.
Today, I took a call from Dr Burston advising a further complication. He advised that he is seriously considering an offer to purchase the quarry from representatives of a group of Travellers, retaining the extant planning authority for "light industrial" units in the quarry. He made it quite clear that as he has now retired he wishes to conclude his interest in the quarry at the earliest opportunity and this offer could see transfer of ownership taking place with a few months. His frustration with the SKDC planning process was clear as was his disappointment with the lack of support from the Parish Council for the current development plan.
The implications for the village are also clear. If the Travellers gain ownership - and they have every right to buy it, they could/would quickly establish an encampment, possibly constructing accommodation along the lines of the extant planning permission for "light industrial", take up residence and follow up with a protracted retrospective planning application to build a travellers encampment. This information will be in the public domain within a very few days. Obvious outcomes will be an immediate blight on the value of properties in Castle Bytham and probably surrounding smaller villages as well. I am sure many of you will be able to think of other undesirable outcomes. It will put the views of those who object to any development in the Village into the shade once the sale is complete. Moreover this could happen very quickly. SKDC cannot object to the sale and the implementation of the existing planning permission. The subsequent deliberate change of use could create a hiatus that would drag on for years as has been the case in other parts of the country.
Many of you will react to this information with righteous indignation and justifiably so. However, we also have to recognise that the owner of the quarry has been frustrated by the barriers that our local Planning Authority and our Parish Council have erected. When the first proposal to change the outline planning permission from "light industrial" to "retirement village were put forward I did some research into the subject and I attach a brief on my views on the subject, based on that research.
For those of you who do not know me I must emphasise that I have absolutely no financial interest in the project for a retirement village and have only the best, ***** ***** interests of the local community at heart. At the last Parish Council meeting the chair declined to call for a public meeting. I believe this is now imperative.
Please circulate this as widely as possible in the Glenside Community. No doubt my telephone will be humming for a few days. Unfortunately I will be in hospital
Tel: *********** /p>
Mob: *********** /p>
Basically, none of my statements in my e-mail to the community nor the verbal briefing given to the public meeting (and prior to that the PC itself) breach any of the Cllrs "Code of Conduct", Equality Act etc. Especially offensive is the remark that "laying him (me) open to criminal charges. The Lincs Association of Local Councils has been asked to comment so I submit that to make inflammatory comments in the minutes ahead of comment by the Local Government Monitoring Officer is unwarranted libel. The LALC had advise that:
I submit that my e-mail to the community makes it clear it does not give any suggestion that it is from the PC.
Jo, many thanks. Not a wholly unexpected set of advice/comment but good to have it confirmed. I have received substantial public support for my actions and will follow up with a formal letter to the current Chairman (female by the way), setting out my objections to the comments included in the minutes. We are subject to an election next week so things may change over time. As a JP even the suggestion of "criminal" behaviour is especially offensive - hence my request for advice.
Good service, many thanks again.