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Councillor acts against waste of time and money

A SENIOR councillor is refusing to attend another local planning group meeting, condemning them as a waste of time and money.

Conservative Sean Holden made his stand after the latest Fleet and Crookham Planning Advisory Group (PAG) meeting.

All 14 councillors representing the Fleet and Church Crookham wards on Hart can attend the meetings, held on the first and third Mondays of each month at the council’s headquarters in Fleet.

The group takes the role of a parish or town council, with councillors commenting on planning applications to Hart’s development control committee and occasionally considering other matters affecting the area.

But Cllr Holden branded the group as a waste of time and money.

“Dogmersfield Parish Council made substantial comments about the gates built without permission in the village but all the PAG says is objection or no objection.

“The group does not make site visits but just looks at drawings.

“Half of the councillors on the PAG are also members of the development control committee who get the agenda in advance, go on site visits and are given a full briefing by planning officers.

“The PAG meetings are an additional layer of bureaucracy and a waste of public money.

“It’s a pointless exercise and a charade.

“Our intention is to keep council tax charges to the minimum and that means cutting out red tape like this.”

Former Hart development control committee chairman Stephen Gorys also branded the meetings a waste of time.

“When I was re-elected last May, I attended a few PAG meetings but found them to be mostly a waste of time because, as most of the applications were relatively minor, they were not given the importance every application deserves.

“As a councillor, I look at all planning applications in my ward and am happy to offer help and advice as appropriate.

“I just don’t bother going to the meetings any more but the public still have full access to me as and when they need.”

“I fully support the Fleet Town Centre Management Group and believe that planning issues affecting the town can be dealt with in that forum.”

However, Phill Gower, who lives in Kings Road, Fleet, has defended the PAG meetings.

“They provide Fleet and Church Crookham residents with a unique opportunity to discuss with local ward councillors their concerns on planning applications in the area,” he said.

“This important forum is one of only a few means of discussing these concerns with the councillors.

“Indeed, local residents are able to discuss any other issues of concern with the councillors following the end of the formal part of the meeting.

“Residents of Kings Road and other locations within the town, are facing a barrage of new flat developments which will destroy the character of the road, as well as causing other problems.

“It is important the opinions of residents are expressed to the local councillors. This is an excellent way of providing this essential interaction.”

During the latest PAG meeting, councillors discussed whether members who sit on the development control committee should be allowed to speak at PAG meetings.

There have been concerns that councillors attending PAG meetings risk pre-determining their opinion before development control, giving developers additional reasons to question decisions made at appeal.

But Mr Gower said: “The fact that such restrictions tend to eliminate the democratic rights of groups of residents to be represented by their councillors did not seem to bother some.

“Others, though, were of the opinion that there should be no limitations on comprehensive discussions.”


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
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