Aylesbury Vale planning committee chairman responds to concerns of pre-determination after meeting comment

Last week we reported that an Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC) planning committee meeting had been overshadowed by a comment seemingly inadvertently caught on camera at the close of proceedings.

We have now received a response from the committee Chairman who made the remark, which you can read below.

Planning committee chairman Brian Foster

Planning committee chairman Brian Foster

At the meeting in question, the committee voted to approve outline plans for 170 new houses in Maids Moreton, despite opposition from residents and an impassioned submission from councillor Warren Whyte, in which he concluded that the project is “not needed, not wanted, not justified and has not been mitigated.”

However, after the vote, committee chairman Brian Foster turned to deputy chairman Richard Newcombe and whispered:

“I thought we were in danger of having that one unceremoniously thrown out.”

The incident has sparked concern among some councillors that decisions are being made without proper scrutiny. Pat Hardcastle of Maids Moreton parish council said:

Committee chairman Brian Foster speaking to deputy chairman Richard Newcombe

Committee chairman Brian Foster speaking to deputy chairman Richard Newcombe

“It is very disappointing. It suggests the whole thing was pre-determined.”

Initially, councillor Robin Stuchbury, who first raised the issue, commented:

“I would be most interested to hear the Chairman's explanation for what he said, as I believe most of Buckingham and Maids Moreton would be also.”

Having seen Mr Fosters explanation, Mr Stuchbury suggested the Chairman should stepdown:

“After reading the statement it’s a question of confidence both in the procedures of the council and of the actions of the chairman. Perhaps he would like to carefully consider whether he is an appropriate Chairman for future meetings as I fear residents would’ve lost confidence in his independence of mind. A new chairman would draw a line under this regrettable matter, though unfortunately will have no bearing on the decision legally taken against strong public objection by the district council.”

The 170 extra homes in Maids Moreton will increase the population of the parish by 50% and add an estimated 300 extra cars.

In a statement provided to this paper, Councillor Whyte said:

“I am deeply disappointed at the decision taken by the strategic development committee last week and I am reviewing with the parish council what options are open to challenge this. I am particular concerned at how around 450 objections were not taken seriously in relation to impact on Maids Moreton’s Conservation Area and on the environment and local infrastructure.

I have since also spoken to Barratt Homes, who own David Wilson, to express my concern at the lack of any community engagement over the last two years, and that if this development does indeed go ahead, then they make significant efforts to mitigate the impact on the village and on Foscote and Buckingham town centre.”

Brian Foster's statement reads:

"This comment was made following the closing of a complex and lengthy committee meeting, and this quote has been taken out of its proper context.

"As the chairman of the committee I am very much aware that members of the committee have a responsibility to consider the planning merits of any planning application in accordance with the legislative framework.

"The committee do have a difficult task in considering all of the relevant points in favour of and against an application and reaching a decision. This process is not easy or straightforward and whatever the decision reached one side may be unhappy with the result. The committee listened carefully to all the objectors’ concerns and following rigorous questioning of our professional officers and a debate, members voted with a majority in favour of this development.

"I do not consider that my comment was in any way an indication of bias or pre determination by me or any member of the committee."

We invite readers to listen to the video of the incident attached to this story and decide for themselves.

Let us know what you think. Email: sam.dean@jpimedia.co.uk