Rugby BC in Private Eye

When Craig Humphrey was the leader, Private Eye often had a story about him in their “Rotten Boroughs” section. Having left for a nice sinecure in the quango sector (conveniently as a director for a body he was involved in setting up as a council leader), I was hoping our area would no longer have the shame of a PE reference.

However, this was in the latest edition of the Eye:IMG_0746

I checked the minutes of the meeting at which Belinda Garcia’s application was approved. Four Tory councillors disclosed an interest as she is a fellow councillor. But none of the others did, despite her being a Borough Councillor (and so a fellow to all of the Planning Committee, particularly the Conservative ones). The chair of the committee, Carolyn Robbins disclosed a pecuniary interest as she is also a close friend. This meant that Robbins did not vote on the item.

Why did Tory councillors Jill Simpson-Vince, Tony Gillias, Graham Francis and Chris Pacey-Day not even declare an interest?

And what is happening when an officer is made redundant after reporting what appears to be “gifting” to an officer?

The one concerning Mark Pawsey’s brother is also concerning.All Tory councillors did disclose an interest, but not one that would preclude them from voting. The officers’ reasons for refusal were:

REASON FOR REFUSAL: 1
The proposed dwelling would result in a piecemeal development that would prejudice other development potential neighbouring land contrary to saved policy GP6 of the Rugby Borough Local Plan 2006
REASON FOR REFUSAL: 2
The proposed dwelling would be located to the rear of no.43, Bilton Road and would form a ‘backland’ development. Having regard to the isolated positioning of the development amongst the residential gardens which characterise this area, the proposed dwelling is considered, by virtue of its siting, to be unsympathetic to the character and appearance of the locality. Furthermore the development due to its location, size and height would form an unneighbourly form of development impacting in terms of an overbearing and an overshadowing impact upon the neighbouring rear gardens to the detriment of the amenities currently enjoyed within. The proposal is therefore considered contrary to policy CS16 of the Rugby Borough Core Strategy 2011.

Councillor Tony Gillias moved, and Councillor Helen Walton seconded, that both reasons should be set aside and the application approved, and so it was.

Neither set of minutes records how each councillor voted (would only happen if someone called for a recorded vote, which is very rare), or who was in the room (eg: did Cllr Robbins leave when the item she declared a pecuniary interest in was being discussed and voted upon?)

I have asked the Tories and RBC for comment.

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4 Responses to “Rugby BC in Private Eye”

  1. Magnifying glass Says:

    Do you know why this application made its way into the planning committee? Surely a councillor would have had to ‘call it in’? I can’t see where it says who called it in.

  2. Danivon Says:

    Planning does not work like that. Cabinet decisions can be “called in” to Full Council, but Planning being a “quasi-judicial process” does not have the same rules. Every application has to be considered at least by the officers, if not the Committee, by law. They can’t be blocked or rejected out of hand.

    Simple applications do not go to a Planning Committee at all – if the officers can give it a clear yes/no then it is decided under delegated powers. A list of these is provided to the Committee at their meetings so they can see what is going on. I hear that fairly recently a planning officer made a mistake and approved an application under delegated powers that they should not have done (there had been rejection on similar applications on the same property before, but the boss was on leave and instructions were not followed) – there was no opportunity to undo that decision, unfortunately.

    If it is not simple, if there are objectors, if it is a certain size etc, then it has to go to the Planning Committee to determine. Yes, a councillor can ask for an application to be referred to committee, but that is not the only route (and the chances are they will be applications that are already contentious). The officers will produce a report giving their view of whether it should be accepted or rejected, and why. The basis of objections and support received is provided. RBC has very recently (far later than many other Borough Councils) allowed objectors and supporters to speak at meetings.

    Very rarely, for specific Planning reasons, planning matters are referred to Full Council, but this is not the result of Call In. It is more likely to be because of a major impact.

    As far as I can tell, the Spike Pawsey application was handled correctly up to the point of the meeting (and the LGO will apparently report on the matter soon). The allegation with the Belinda Garcia one is that improper ‘treating’ of a key officer before the application went to committee at least gives the impression that impropriety may have occurred. As far as I can tell, no all Tory councillors who should have done, declared an interest.

  3. Magnifying glass Says:

    Thanks for the info – very interesting. Do you know which elements of the Spike Pawsey application meant that it should be determined by the planning committee? Is it because he is a prominent local Tory?

    Do you know whether the opposition councillors also voted for approval?

  4. Danivon Says:

    Generally, refusals are more likely to be referred to a planning committee, and the Pawsey application was to be rejected on two planning policy lines. It also had several objectors and supporters. I don’t think it had anything to do with who the applicant was that it was referred. I don’t have any inside info, but looking at it referral to the committee looks routine to me.

    I have spoken to one opposition councillor, who I cannot name, but their answer leaves me no doubt that they did not support the move. As recorded votes were not taken, I cannot say how anyone voted. But the members concerned could.


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