THE Liberal Democrats have come out with a very strong election campaign message in their Focus newsletter which has dropped through letterboxes in the past few days.
The front page has made the Chesterton development the centrepiece of their campaign with the headline “Outrage as Conservatives block three Cirencester councillors from voting on [the] Chesterton development”, followed by Liberal Democrat councillors will be “writing to the Secretary of State to ask the government to intervene”.
Does this mean that Lib Dem councillors will ask the Secretary of State to ‘call in’ the planning application ‘for his own determination’, thereby releasing the district council from its own responsibilities for deciding this controversial application, or does it mean that they will ask the Secretary of State to ‘advise’ the district council, perhaps in a letter or telephone call, to allow these district ward councillors (two of whom are town councillors) the opportunity to vote?
The answer to this question is that it can only be the latter since it is not Liberal Democrat policy (or indeed Labour or Conservative party policy) to delay or stand in the way of building more housing, including a high proportion of up to 50 per cent affordable/social housing, to meet the needs of a growing population where there is evidence of that need.
So when the application does come to the vote in council this summer (perhaps as early as June) do we reasonably expect, even if these councillors are allowed to ‘vote’ in a reversal of the district council’s properly taken (with the benefit of legal advice) earlier decision, that it would make any difference to the likely outcome?
Those following the progress of the arguments for and against this application will be well placed to answer this question for themselves noting, before I am reminded, that it is not for me as a Cirencester town councillor (and a Conservative Party county council election candidate), to comment whether the inclusion or exclusion of the three ward councillors would or will make any difference to the eventual outcome.
We can however see where the political and policy imperative lays regardless of party politics.
CLLR STUART TARR
Conservative Party candidate for the Gloucestershire Beeches Division