by Alan Dean on 31 December, 2020
I had hoped to have a rest from blog posting and social media for the Christmas and New Year period. Unfortunately, a lack of transparency by the Council on Tuesday does justify a break from walking, reading, television, phone calls with family and sad self-isolation from that nasty virus.
Well before Christmas, ten councillors from all parties except the Independent groups submitted a formal request for an Extraordinary Council Meeting (ECM) to allow them to seek answers to questions about the forthcoming planning inquiry and Stansted Airport’s expansion aspirations. (Last January Uttlesford refused the airport’s wish eventually to grow to 43 million passengers annually.) That meeting will take place on January 7th 2021, though every effort was made to hold it in December.
The meeting’s agenda was published on Tuesday this week, but the motion tabled by the ten councillors was not visible to the public, ostensibly on grounds of confidentiality. I was contacted about this situation yesterday morning by Sinead Corr, the news editor at the Bishop’s Stortford Independent. I could only tell her that such opaque action was wrong and unprecedented in my experience. I reported that I was chasing officers to question the Council’s lack of transparency. Here is the report that Ms Corr promptly published. This link may take readers to a later version of the story.
Later in the day yesterday, I received a message from officers that a mistake had been made and that the Council’s public website would be corrected as soon as someone could be found to do it who was not on holiday. (In fact, I have learned today (4 January) that an officer kindly came back from holiday to correct the website. This Christmas/New Year holiday has been a very trying time for everyone at Uttlesford – as well as in the wider community.)
To assist UDC in achieving democratic openness and transparency, I am publishing the full motion and its sponsors names below. Sadly, much of the questioning and discussion next Thursday will take part in private for reasons that will have to be explained in public before the broadcast of the meeting can be cut off from public view. The questions will be addressed to Members of the Uttlesford Cabinet/Executive because they are publicly accountable for everything that the Council does.
On the eve of the largest Defence of a Planning Appeal relating to Stansted Airport that this Council has faced in more than a decade, Council calls for a full debate in which all members of the Executive explain the current status and process that has been followed since January, 2020 by the Council’s Defence Team.
The objectives of such explanation would be to satisfy the Council of the soundness, objectivity and objectives of the process to date and henceforth intended.
Furthermore, Council resolves to set up as soon as possible a Member-led initiative to engage with the Planning Advisory Service (PAS) or similar body to audit and scrutinise the process applied since 2018.
Proposer: Cllr Ayub Khan
Seconder: Cllr Vere Isham
Cllr Melvin Caton
Cllr Alan Dean
Cllr Paul Fairhurst
Cllr Mark Lemon
Cllr Barbara Light
Cllr Janice Loughlin
Cllr Geoffrey Sell
Cllr Maggie Sutton
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POST SCRIPT: The error has now been corrected. See: Agenda frontsheet 07th-Jan-2021 18.00 Council.pdf (moderngov.co.uk) However, the names of the eight Members supporting the motion have not been included. As I write this update, I don’t know why and have challenged their exclusion.
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