The Crawley News has a story this week about a Tory councillor’s reasons for not going to many meetings that he is supposed to be part of. He says that the reason for his poor attendance is that he stopped going to development control committee meetings because they are “a logic-free zone”. He said:
I am a one-man band. I can’t overturn anything.
I got one vote in development control against the rest, who willy-nilly accepted anything the (council) officers (who make recommendations) put before them.
This seems to be a particularly strange attitude to take, for a number of reasons.
He thinks that his colleagues are wrong to agree so often with the recommendations give by the council officers. The council officers are people who have all spent time studying and getting qualified in understanding and interpreting planning law. That is followed up by year, many years in some cases, of experience working in the planning department and keeping up-to-date with new guidelines as they are issued. For those reasons, the recommendations are really an expert opinion and not an opinion of whether a planning application is good or pretty or desirable but whether it complies with all the local and national requirements.
It is possible to go against the recommendations, and that does sometimes happen, but you really have to have good reasons, and those same planning officers are always helpful (in my experience) in pointing out where there is scope for finding a valid reason to refuse an application if that is what the meeting want to do.
Unless things have changed a lot in the last 12 years the officers’ recommendations may be accepted in the majority of cases but often it is reluctantly or with regret, but not willy-nilly.
If Mr. Brockwell had decided that he didn’t want to take part in the meetings he should really have asked to be removed from the committee and then the council would have had an opportunity to replace him with somebody who would take part in the debate and contribute something. Also, he says that he regards it as no longer a useful system but doesn’t appear to have shared that concern with anybody or made any attempt to do anything about it. Is that what he does with anything that looks wrong? Just ignore it and petulantly institute a unilateral boycott?
The real reason this caught my eye was the bit where he complains about only having one vote amongst many and so he can’t overturn anything. Well excuse me but isn’t that just called democracy? Does he want to have a personal veto or something because he knows so much more than all his colleagues and the qualified, experienced planners?
The irony is that he was elected by lots of individual votes that, on their own, would have counted for nothing. I’ll bet his election address didn’t tell the people in Pound Hill to not bother voting because they only have one vote and so can’t overturn anything?
I don’t know Keith Brockwell personally. I can’t even remember if he joined the council before I left, but he seems like the archetype of an empty-suit politician. If there is a logic-free zone in Crawley’s town hall then I suggest it is somewhere between Cllr Brockwell’s ears – an area that is certainly ripe for redevelopment.