Yesterday's planning committee took an odd turn. There was a Lib/Lab alignment and a Con/Green one over a planning application to demolish the building on the corner of Oxford Road and Wilson Road and build a new church in its place.
It got off to a bad start when the applicant referred to it being a political decision (which I felt had to correct him on) so I had to laugh after making that point quite strongly at the apparent sight of a political carve up when committee members seemed to be lining up on party lines.
The fact is that in this instance it was a co-incidence.
My reading is that the Conservatives wanted to make a statement about equal treatment towards mosques and churches. In my eyes, that wasn't predetermination but a predisposition. They are quite different matters. I didn't see a problem with their reasoning as they came up with cogent arguments based on the evidence in front of us and voted according to their arguments.
One of them was a little off-colour when he referred to turning down the application as being an attack on that particular church community. Now, if we want to talk about pre-determination that comment was made by someone who describes himself on one website as "Baptist, Christian" (and who apparently likes Italian and Chinese food)!
Similarly the members of the Labour group who spoke did the same. Gave perfectly reasonable explanations and voted consistent with those reasons.
However, Graham Hoskins used the word "we" when referring to the committee's deliberations. The Green committee member jumped on it and agreed with the Tories that it constituted pre-determination.
Piffle! Mountains and mole hills. In the context it was used it was perfectly reasonable.
The Labour group may want to reflect on Tony Page and Pete Ruhemann's outbursts when they accused Conservatives and Lib Dems of colluding over an application for Denbeigh Place. What goes around comes around. I can't speak for the Conservative group, but neither myself, Kirsten Bayes or Chris Harris (the then Lib Dem planning committee members) had spoken with each other about it let alone with another group about that application. In fact, it was my first ever planning committee meeting and I had only received the papers on the day of the meeting.
I can definitively state that there is no pre-determination from the Lib Dems on the committee. Unlike the other two groups we don't have a pre-meet. In this particular case, Pete and I hadn't discussed the application at all so the fact that we both voted the same way was because we saw the plans presented to the committee on the night and independently came to the same conclusion. That's the way it is meant to work. I have no reason to believe that any other member did otherwise based on the debate.
Either you thought it was over development of the site or you didn't.
I hope the church group has another look at their plans. Their aims were laudable but converting a 300 capacity church into a 300 capacity church, shops, offices, conference centre and flats seemed to me to be excessive on that site. I hope they look at the committee decision and come back with better plans. I quite liked the new Oxford Road frontage they proposed.
I'll leave the other parties to sort out their bun fight over the application and hurl their accusations, but they don't stand up to scrutiny.