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LATEST: Council leader's house building plan delayed after claims of councillor bias

Malvern Editorial 8th Jan, 2015 Updated: 20th Oct, 2016

A DECISION on whether the district council leader can develop his farm for housing has been delayed due to concerns over whether councillors can reach an unbiased verdict.

Coun David Hughes’ application for 21 homes at Clay Green Farm in Alfrick was set to be decided by Malvern Hill’s District Council’s Northern Area Development Management Committee last night (Wednesday, January 7).

But within minutes of the packed meeting in the council chamber a move was made to refer the matter to the council’s full Planning Committee.

Coun Paul Swinburn, who is also the deputy council leader, proposed the motion due to the ‘sensitive nature’ of the application and said it would be more appropriate if the decision was made by councillors from ‘across the area’.

Concerns were raised before the meeting that 11 of the 16 members on the NADMC, including Coun Hughes, are Conservative and would not be able to vote impartially.

It comes despite the council assuring prior to the meeting there would be no conflict of interest from councillors and the decision would be made based on the application’s own merits.

Housing officer Gary Williams told the Observer there had been no evidence of political voting during planning meetings in response to concerns from residents in Alfrick.

But some also argued committee members Coun’s Paul Cumming, Phil Grove, Paul Swinburn and Barbara Williams should not take part in the debate because Coun Hughes had granted them portfolios which incurred extra responsibility and financial reward.

But on the night the move to refer the decision on Clay Green Farm was voted through before any councillor had to declare an interest.

Coun Hughes chose not to attend last night’s meeting, but he was expected to declare his obvious interest as land owner and remove himself from the debate.

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