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Friday, 29 June 2012

Councillors' Quotes at Planning Committee - Cllr Tomlinson

Cllr Vera Tomlinson (St Andrews) has served several years as a member of the Planning Committee.
She completes a U-turn in her point of view about what should happen to the Tadpole Farm application in the space of five days.  What happens to change her view so completely would only be conjecture; but it is ORA's opinion that to say it should be refused in one meeting and then say it should be approved in another is, at the least, very disturbing for the residents of North Swindon. 

At the North Locality meeting on Thursday, 7th June 2012 Cllr Tomlinson speaks to the residents about how the Tadpole Farm application should be refused:
"We’ve got to get through this first hurdle, and you know our mission is to try and bring up enough points to persuade the committee to vote against it.  And it is only outline planning permission that they are seeking on the night.  So you don’t get all the conditions and bits and pieces – it is purely do we have permission to build and then the officer will decide what the conditions are. Now, if I was on Planning Committee I wouldn’t vote for that because I think the committee needs to know exactly what they are voting for......
All we can do is to try to persuade that committee to turn it down,.... 
I would like to respond to David [Cllr David Renard], and I am sure he knew I would.  It is a bit of a defeatist attitude, that one. We are fighting for something that means an awful lot to an awful lot of people that live in the area which we are talking about and who will be affected most. It is not a done deal if we turn it down, if this Planning Committee turns it down, that the inspector will also turn it down. We have the right to speak at that appeal and if our arguments are good then the inspector will agree with us.  So don’t think that if it is turned down it is going to cost you all a lot of money.  Not necessarily so.  And, in my opinion it is a fight worth fighting.  We have to do it, it concerns so many people and it is such a bad application and Emma, you alluded to the fact that these developers have a very bad name, an extremely bad name in the development and planning world.  They have let us so many times in what was the Abbey Meads ward, the northern sector, that quite honestly I wouldn’t trust them with anything."
At Planning Committee on Tuesday, 12th June 2012 (five days later)  Cllr Tomlinson recommends the application for approval.  
"I believe that if we can’t have an outright refusal tonight the only way forward is for the Planning Committee to go along with the officer’s recommendation [approval]."
"I also wish the 106 agreement remains open for further negotiation to take place – one thing I think needs renegotiating is what is given for improvements on Oakhurst Way and several other places." 
Full Speech: 
Thank you, Chair, my name is Vera Tomlinson.   I have been a ward councillor representing the Abbey Meads ward for several years and now, because of boundary changes, a ward councillor for half of the former ward now renamed St Andrews.  This application would be, if granted, an add-on in its entirety to my ward.  The Northern Sector over the years has been used as one of the worst examples of development.
I have spoken up many times in this Council Chamber decrying what developers have done and what they have failed to do over the last 8 years or so.  I have never failed to take on developers for what they have failed to do or done badly.  And Crest Nicholson, who have been one of the major developers in the Northern Sector, must take their fair share of the blame.  I hope they’ve learnt their lesson.  I’ve let it be known that I have been and I still am against this development, because I don’t want it, I know the residents don’t want a repetition of what we have gone through over the last few years, and what we are left with can only be described as a bodge up at best and a shambles at worst. 
Do I trust developers?  I haven’t been given much reason to actually trust them.  They don’t seem to care about local people in my experience, they only care about their lot in life and that is to make a profit at our expense.  I can only assure you I care about all of the residents in my ward with a passion and I will always speak out for and fight for the very best for them.
I’ve read this application for Tadpole Farm three times over, and nowhere, I’m sorry to say, can I find any valid reasons for refusal of this application.  Believe me, it grieves me to say this, but I have always tried to be honest with people I represent on this Council.  I didn’t go to bed at all last night; I spent the entire night worrying about outcomes from tonight’s decision, whatever that might be.
I hope you will bear with me whilst I share this dilemma with you and allow me to put to you the conclusion I have reluctantly come to.  But make no mistake – I am completely against this application as it stands.  If the planning votes for a refusal tonight, yes we would be jubilant.  If the people hoping for a refusal tonight won, and the application was turned down, yes that victory would be very sweet.  
But, sadly, only for a very short time, because I have been told on good authority that the developers would immediately go to appeal.  Excuse me (takes sip of water).  Now, what would that mean?  We do not have, bar the flimsiest reasons, any ammunition to defend our decision.  In planning terms and planning rules, we would without any shadow of doubt lose and would be heavily and soundly criticised.  And let’s consider what that means to us – the developers would be given the right to develop in the way that they see fit, and we know, through experience, what that would mean.  It means we will have lost all control over this development.   
A development of great magnitude - and not only that, but we would lose the 106 money that we could, if we had it, use to mitigate the harm arising from this development.  Also, we must take into account costs.  They would be awarded against us, which would have to be borne by the Council Tax payer, i.e. you and me.  Regretfully, and with a very heavy heart, I believe that if we can’t have an outright refusal tonight the only way forward is for the Planning Committee to go along with the Officer’s recommendation.   
But I would ask this Planning Committee to include in those conditions that no deals are done without the consent of ward councillors following consultation with them along with the Chair and Vice-chair of this committee.  I also wish the 106 agreement remains open for further negotiation to take place – one thing I think needs renegotiating is what is given for improvements on Oakhurst Way and several other places.  
The Labour party have said they wish this application to be deferred – I refer to a leaflet that has been widely distributed in the northern sector.  It’s not, in my opinion, a very well thought through document, I’m afraid, because if it were deferred Crest, I’m sure, would go straight to appeal for non-determination, even tomorrow morning.  Crest would win on that and we residents and the Council will then lose on all counts. 
This is, by far, the hardest decision I have had before me since becoming a Councillor.  I give my word to my fellow ward residents – I am doing this to get the very best deal for you.  We will retain control of the development, we will tie the developers down so tightly, not allow them any wriggle room at all, and the outcome being the very best development this Council can deliver.  I am convinced there’s no other way and I hope you still support me.  Thank You.