Four councillors are objecting to the vote that approved the huge development of 1,075 homes on the former power station site at Ironbridge. Councillors Andy Boddington, Tony Parson, Caroline Bagnall and Richard Huffer have written to Shropshire Council’s legal team saying that one councillor should not have been allowed to vote.
Precedent and probity dictate that planning committee councillors cannot vote if they had not listened to the entirety of the presentation by officers, along with representations by objectors, supporters and the developer. Councillors on the committee must also be present during the subsequent debate leading up to the vote.
One of the Southern Planning Committee councillors left the committee room during the Ironbridge debate for a short period. Despite this he was allowed to make a statement and vote without having heard the full arguments.
We believe the vote was invalid and should be retaken to ensure that it meets the standards and probity that is required for determination planning applications.
If this councillor had not voted, the application would still have been approved by five votes in favour to four votes against – instead of six to four. But there is a point of principle at stake here. Can councillors be allowed to vote on an application they have not heard in full? We think not and we think the vote on Tuesday was invalid.
To council officers and the chair of the Southern Planning Committee
At the last planning meeting on Ironbridge, the Southern Planning Committee voted by six votes to four in favour of the application. However, one of the voters in favour, Councillor David Tremellen, had not been present for the entire agenda item. Estimates vary for his absence.
On returning Councillor David Tremellen indicated that he wished to speak. The chair of the meeting, councillor David Evans said to him:
“You have been out for part of the debate. You have been absent for part of the debate. [But] you can speak.”
Councillor Tremellen spoke briefly. And then he took part in the vote.
We understand that it is clear rule that should a member leaving a planning committee during discussion of a planning application, that member cannot resume the debate and most importantly cannot vote on the application. Such a vote would introduce a suggestion at least one member of the planning committee was not fully informed before the vote.
Our belief is that the vote on Monday was not valid. We are calling for work on awarding the planning application to be paused. We also ask for the vote to be held again to ensure its legitimacy.
Andy Boddington, Shropshire Councillor for Ludlow North
Caroline Bagnall, Shropshire Councillor for Broseley
Tony Parsons, Shropshire Councillor for Bayston Hill, Column and Sutton
Richard Huffer, Shropshire Councillor for Clee.
This is the recording of the exchange between Dave Evans and Dave Tremellen. It is indistinct to my aging ears at one point. If anyone can produce a better transcript, plese add to the comments.