There is an extraordinary letter in the Cambs Times this week which has something of a personal attack on me. I am not convinced it is responsible journalism to print anonymous letters of that nature, but I’m a big boy and I can take it. But it does deserve a response.
I seem to be criticised for:
a. Smiling some time during the Tesco exhibition. I must remember not to smile in future. Actually - if that person had been watching properly, they would have also seen me asking a number of challenging questions to Tesco representatives about certain issues - mainly to do with highways.
b. Going to a festival. When I take holidays, one of the things I do is go to Rock Festivals, I make no apologies for that, being a big fan of hard rock music is part of who I am. I have a right to be me. This is the second time I have been criticised for taking a holiday, so here is an advanced warning - I am going to a rock festival in early December in Wales and another one next June in France. Actually I plan these things well in advance and pay good money for them. So being notified at short notice of a public exhibition doesn’t allow me to change those plans.
c. Voting against the previous Station Road application. Fair enough. If some people think that I was wrong, so be it. But I stand by my decision; I felt there were some serious short-comings about that application. My understanding of the revised submission for the same site is that there has been some serious work done to try to deal with the problems raised. Whether they are sufficient to overcome them I cannot comment on - I am not allowed to - but, if this application is approved (note the word if, this is not a statement of either opposition or support) - it will be all the better because of the previous refusal.
Planning is a complex matter. We are governed by a number of National, Regional and local polices, arguably, the most important in this case is the Government’s Planning Policy Statement 6. The decisions made at Planning Committee have to be decided based on those policies, but are also informed by local views. However, if a decision is made that contravenes the policy framework, Fenland can be challenged either through appeal or through the Courts. For that reason, whatever decisions are made at planning committee, have to have a solid policy foundation. This is something that it is really difficult to get across, because the process undermines local democracy. Indeed, Nationally, I have pushed the Conservative Party to change some of this after the General Election (which they have said they will do), but that doesn't change where we stand now and it is the current planning framework that has to inform any decision I make.
One aspect of this is that I am not permitted to make up my mind until I have listened to the evidence at planning committee. Any suggestion I have already made up my mind has no basis in fact.