The row over a Labour Party move to gag all discussion of a contentious Taylor Wimpey development in Sully – last night spilled over into a second Penarth Town Council planning committee meeting – with a Conservative councillor being called “out of order”.
It began when the chairman Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) was about to attend to the formality of signing-off the minutes [the formal record of last month’s meeting] as being a true record.
However the minutes – prepared by the council’s town clerk Emma Boylan – reflected none of the dissention and disagreement which had taken place in that meeting.
The minutes simply stated only that Cllr Rhiannon Birch (Labour Cornerswell) had proposed a motion which had been seconded by Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) “To thank Taylor Wimpey for the opportunity to comment. The committee feels it is not appropriate to comment on this application but would welcome the opportunity to comment on future applications.”
To this, Town Clerk Boylan had added the anodyne line “The motion was passed by 6 votes to 2″ .
When last night’s committee reached the point when the chairman Cllr Neil Thomas was to sign-off the minutes of that October 20th meeting as being a true record, Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward) intervened to say he had raised a query with the Town Clerk about the minutes and asked if Cllr Thomas had been informed of this.
Cllr Thomas said he had been notified – but said he was not entirely sure what the substance of the query was.
Cllr Thomas said “A motion was made which was voted upon. There was no amended motion or an attempt to make a further motion so ” – he told Cllr Ernest – “I’m not really sure what your comment means”.
Cllr Ernest said Cllr Rhiannon Birch had proposed a motion that the council should “not comment” on the application [ to develop 150 houses on land west of Swanbridge Road Sully].
Cllr Ernest reminded members that he had disagreed with that. He had said the council should comment on the scheme as it was “a matter of interest to this council“ and it would affect the Penarth area. Cllr Ernest said his recollection was that Cllr Clive Williams had seconded his motion.
Cllr Thomas disagreed with Cllr Ernest’s recollection. “There was no seconding going on – because there was no motion“ – Cllr Ernest had made a comment – he said – but had “not put forward a motion of any sort”.
Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward) recalled having spoken – but not to second a motion.
Cllr Thomas said “I see no difficulty with the minutes. They record the 6-2 which was the vote ” .
Cllr Ernest said it would have been “appropriate if the minutes had included some comment that there was a vote on the issue”. Cllr Thomas said this was already indicated by the minutes .
Cllr Rhiannon Birch’s motion – at the October 20th meeting – had had the effect of freezing the debate and preventing members of Penarth Town Council’s planning committee from discussing the Taylor Wimpey application .
Cllr Rhiannon Birch ( who was not present last night) and her husband Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell) are “twin-hatted” councillors who are salaried members of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and are also members of its planning committee.
[ PDN Note: The Labour-controlled Vale Council’s so-called Local Development Plan (LDP) is proposing the building of 10,000 new homes in the Vale – hundreds of which are to be developed in and around the village Sully, immediately south of Penarth, raising issues of huge future pressures on roads, schools and local infrastructure. The plans in the LDP have already triggered protests in Sully and raised fears of massive commuter traffic jams through Penarth in years to come. ].
Cllr Wilson said council minutes customarily only record the decisions made . He said that if notes on the councillors’ discussions were included in the minutes “then we go down the lines of verbatim minutes. You know and I know all the problems that would involve”. Cllr Wilson said that the existing procedure was consistent with that of the Vale of Glamorgan Planning Department – “minutes just record the decision” he said.
Cllr Ernest disagreed. He said it would have been appropriate for the October 20th minutes of Penarth Town Council’s planning committee to have noted that there had been a discussion on the issue . He said that all that the minutes actually showed was “Cllr Rhiannon Birch’s motion – end of story – and the subsequent vote”.
Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) [who is also a salaried member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and a member of the Vale Council’s Planning Committee] said “ We do not have verbatim discussions in there. I seconded the motion – that’s all of it there and I think that is perfectly adequate. The very last line shows that there was not unanimity – that is enough”
Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said he understood Cllr Ernest’s point of view. The way the minutes were written had made it appear that there had not been a difference of opinion between councillors.
In the chair Cllr Neil Thomas said “OK maybe in future we can change” but whilst he was speaking Cllr Gwyn Roberts interjected to say “We have a procedure, chair. We move progress”.
Cllr Ernest said he was fully entitled to raise a matter relating to the accuracy of the minutes.
From the chair Cllr Thomas said “You’ve heard the discussion. We are not going to reflect on it any further”. He said the minutes represented an “accurate and consistent approach” – and they were prepared in the same way as under the previous administration.
Cllr Ernest said “Not entirely” and persisted with his point until he was called “out of order” by Cllr Thomas in the chair, who said there was a motion on the table that the meeting should progress to other business .
The vote to progress to other business was 6 For and 2 Against ( the two opponents being Cllrs Ernest and Williams).