Row over best laid planning of Lib Dems and Tories

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TOWCESTER Conservatives have defended a decision which stops newly elected Liberal Democrats from voting on planning issues.

Last week Lib Dems Martin Johns and Chris Lofts found out they would not be given a seat on the South Northants Council planning committee despite campaigning heavily on planning issues.

Mr Johns said: “Planning isn’t about party politics, but it is key to Towcester’s future. Blocking the Lib Dems from having a vote on the development control committee is petty and against the interest of local people and democracy.”

Mr Lofts added: “The recent local elections clearly showed that Towcester wants a different approach on planning, as it does on other matters. The Conservatives are in denial mood ignoring the clear will of the people.”

Both have pledged to attend and speak at all relevant planning committee meetings affecting Towcester but will not be able to vote.

In response to the criticism Towcester Tories Andrew Wilby and Diana Dallyn issued a joint statement in which they said the Lib Dems have been allocated committee memberships in-line with other back benchers.

The statement said: “They are a very small minority in the district and a minority group in Towcester and have no claim to exclusively represent the views of the people of Towcester.”

It added: “For the past six years the main planning committee for Towcester has been the West Northants Towcester Area Planning Committee and appointment to that is by the Secretary of State.

“The SNC Committee rarely deals with significant Towcester planning applications, so they are not being deprived of a chance to vote.”

Speaking to the Advertiser this week Mrs Dallyn added: “There are 12 people on the planning committee.

“There are 10 Conservatives out of the 33 that are on the council. So one third of committee members are Conservative.

“One third of the six independents are also on the committee which makes up the 12.

“One third of two Lib Dems does not make a person.”

Mrs Dallyn also said the planning committee makes judgements based on existing policy and that the committee seats allocated to the Lib Dems, which include the policy and scrutiny committee, would gave them much more influence over the actions of SNC.