Last night I attended the Barnet Council planning committee, who were deciding on the application concerning a National Grid application for a battery back up supply station on green belt land in Partingdale Lane. This blog first drew attention to the application, when it was initially submitted. We worked with local ornithologist Samuel Levy to publicise the application. As a result, there were over 900 objections. Last night, the committee listened to presentation. The Mill Hill Preservation Society and a local residents group spoke at the meeting.
We recorded Roger Selby of the Preservation Society outline the societies objections.
Several councillors, including former council leader Richard Cornelius and retiring veteran Mill Hill Councillor John Hart also made decent speeches opposing the scheme. The opposition to the scheme was cross party and well thought out. The developers agent stated several times that the scheme was part of the "Conservative governments energy strategy". Several Tory councillor winced as this (You can listen to the whole meeting by clicking THIS LINK and clicking on the audio feed). Given that there is no argument that we need such facilities, only whether they should be put in green belt areas of special scientific interest bordering nature reserves, he was very badly prepared and addressed none of the planning concerns.
When he finished his speech, he was questioned by the committee, one of the most crass, stupid things I've ever heard at a council meeting was uttered by one of the Conservative Councillors on the committee. (I'll spare his blushes and not name and shame). He was almost immediately dressed down by veteran councillor Melvin Cohen, who realised exactly what he'd done. He started his questioning, by asking the planning consultant how long he'd been doing his job. The consultant immediately replied he'd been in the game twenty odd years. The councillor then said he was "incredibly foolish to submit this just before an election". \(You can listen to this at 34.22 to the recording in the link above). Every councillor looked horrified. A Councillor had not only given the game away that the planning committee only listen to residents just before an election, he'd possibly invalidated the commitee's decision. Councillors are not allowed to take decisions to ensure they don't get booted out. I actually wondered if maybe he'd taken a bung to say that, as it could do the developer a big favour. It would certainly feature in any half competent appeal by the developer. If you listen at 37.43, Melvin Cohen made it clear that any decision would be taken purely on planning grounds, clearly trying to mitigate the damage. Given that the committee was unanimous in their rejection and none of the councillors voting had a vested interest in the wards affected, hopefully the damage was mitigated by Cllr Cohen, but I simply couldn't believe that all the good work done by the residents, councillors and campaign groups could be undermined by such idiocy. Clearly the young councillor thought he was jolly clever scoring points in such a way, but in truth he's a blithering idiot.
If he only listens to public concerns and would only consider genuine planning objections, as were clearly demonstrated in this case, with an election looming, he is not fit to be a councillor. I do hope that Mill Hill senior Tory Val Duschinsky and Richard Cornelius take action to ensure he's never allowed near another Council committee again.
I was pleased that the committee was unanimous in its rejection. This was a bad plan. If you want to find out why, watch Samuel Levy explain