Independent group leaving planning committee seat vacant
News | Emily Gill - Local Democracy Reporting Service | Published: 16:11, Monday July 13th, 2020.
Last updated: 16:11, Monday July 13th, 2020
Caerphilly County Borough Council’s Independent group has left its seat on the council’s planning committee vacant for three years.
Despite qualifying for a place on the planning committee under the proportional representation system, the Independent group has decided not to take up the offer.
However, the Independent group say they like to campaign on planning issues, something they wouldn’t be able to do so easily if they have a member on the committee.
Those that are on the planning committee are required to be open about decisions and are not allowed to campaign either for or against applications.
There are only four Independent group councillors in Caerphilly, and because the rules stipulate that two councillors from the same ward cannot be on the committee, half of their members are excluded.
Cllr Kevin Etheridge, who was the leader of the Independent group for three years before standing down in April, said: “We can make written representations to every member of the planning committee by email and speak at the planning committee against proposals.
“I organised petitions and a public meeting against the Persimmon development. If I was on the committee I could not do this.
“We are not abdicating our responsibility either, we are putting the people first – which I have always done with my detailed questions.”
The Independent group leader, Cllr Graham Simmonds, said: “Under Labour, Caerphilly is the only council in Wales that had to withdraw their Local Development Plan, which cost millions, leaving Caerphilly at the mercy of developers.
The deputy leader of the council, Cllr Sean Morgan said: “The Independent group have been putting a lot of their efforts recently to condemn planning decisions and campaigning online against an affordable housing development.
“Residents will wonder why on Earth the Independent group is so active to criticise online, but refuses to take up their position on the planning committee.
“Would it be that they’re happy to oppose everything behind a computer screen, but don’t fancy the responsibility of voting to stop new build social housing?”
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