The Labour Group of Councillors joined the Liberal Democrats on Monday afternoon to defeat a resolution tabled by Councillor Malcolm Hanney (Chew Valley North ward), supported by Councillor Vic Pritchard (Chew Valley South Ward) and other Conservative Councillors.
The resolution called on BaNES full Council to call a temporary halt to their current deeply-flawed exercise to find and promote Gypsy and Traveller sites in BaNES, to reassess both the numerical need for sites, updating the 2007 statistics they have used and to liaise more closely with adjoining authorities in identifying appropriate sites.
It then called for BaNES to ensure a more open, fair and efficient assessment of potential sites.
Members of the Stanton Wick Action Group and the Chairs of both Publow/Pensford and Stanton Drew Parish Councils each made three minute presentations and answered questions from Councillors. There was also a very helpful presentation by Joe Evans of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
Richard Harwood (our legal Counsel) made a three minute presentation and answered questions for a further 17 minutes (predominantly from Malcolm whose questions were designed to highlight the flaws in the process to date and the areas of potential challenge and to ensure key information was before the Council).
Richard, having set out the basis of his considerable experience and standing in these issues also advised that he has been appointed by BaNES in the past and had in fact turned down a request to act for BaNES in this matter having already been instructed by us. He advised that;
- In his opinion the process was deeply flawed and would cause serious difficulty to the Council if they are legally challenged
- That the action of pausing this process now would not harm the progress of the Core Strategy Plan through its adoption stages
- That the failure to put right the significant errors in the process could render more harm to the progress of the Core Strategy
- That the analysis of the numbers of pitches that should be provided was flawed and should be readdressed if it is to be robust against challenge or scrutiny by the Inspector looking at the Core Strategy
The Liberal Democrats and Labour were, however, set on keeping the current consultation process going, despite all of the errors, the harm caused and the real danger of legal challenge and delay to the implementation of the Core Strategy.
At the end of the meeting the voting for a Liberal Democrat amendment was approved by a relatively minor majority. The amendment, written before the meeting, said that the Council had listened and would take all of the points made forward to the September Cabinet Meeting and that the Council would continue with the consultation process.
In summary, the Liberal Democrats ploughed on regardless (with the exception of Jeremy Sparks), not listening to residents’ views and the warning of our Counsel. Labour members supported the LibDems. The Independents went along with the LibDems and Labour even though two of them had reason to support the motion because they each had a Children’s Nursery (Snapdragons) in their wards whose business was seriously threatened by another proposed but inappropriate ‘Preferred’ Site as a result of this flawed process. Sad for democracy, sad for decency and sad for many thousands of ratepayers in rural communities.
However, it was in fact a good day for us!
We have the full support of the Conservatives, we have a line in the sand with a very clear message of the consequences in the event that the BaNES Cabinet fail to remove sites that are not deliverable from the preferred list; and the whole Council can now be in no doubt of the weight of our argument, the ability of our advocates and professionals and the clear resolve of our communities.
TV coverage can be found here: http://www.itv.com/news/west/story/2012-06-18/bath-gypsy-sites/
We need to up the pace now, to ensure that everyone in our communities responds to the consultation, to ensure that we maintain pressure on the Cabinet to do the right thing, to ensure that every Councillor is informed, and to ensure that any legal challenge we may make is powerful and timely.
Our sincere thanks to everyone who gave presentations yesterday, who attended yesterday and all of you who continue to play your part for your community. We are strong because we are together.
Please keep working, supporting and helping your community.
If you are a “buddy” please tell your neighbors and friends – keep them informed.
We will arrange meetings so that we can all consider and debate and we are hard at work on fundraising – where we always need your help!
Thank you so much for the generous donations and the substantial underwriting – you know who you are and your community is very, very grateful.
On behalf of the Stanton Wick Action Group