This is the report in the Shropshire Star of the happenings at the South Planning Committee held on 20 September 2021. You need to read it.
The casual observer sees the event, that’s it.
In that screen-shot of the committee meeting that’s an image of me with my hand up.
That meeting on the 20th was described as an “extraordinary” one, the culmination of a succession of events made up of entirely separate issues that all funnelled one way as determined by Shropshire Council planners at the outset.
Kid yourself not.
From the moment the “old Ironbridge power station” ceased to be “just” the old Ironbridge power station and started to be hyped as the “Ironbridge power station development” – full of developer’s promise – the fate of the site and all those even remotely likely to be affected by its development was sealed.
Look closely enough at that screen capture and you’ll detect from my body language that my right hand has gone up in a sort of: “Why not?” gesture, as against the determined thrust evident in all the other “fors” because that sense of giving in to the inevitable was exactly what was going through my mind. The pointlessness of it all. That that’s where we’ve ended up and that from now on things can only get worse.
To complete the picture, a full facial would also have indicated a degree of ‘pissed-offness’ because by that point I was, believe me, severely pissed off, and not just by the matter in hand.
A series of ‘noises-off’ from various players had also mightily pissed me off, not least from officers who ought to have known better but who seemed determined to prove how ‘forceful’ they could be, which is always a danger because whilst they were concentrating on what they were trying to make out was a point of principle, they missed a point of order bigger than any of the egos on show.
As for that newspaper report? It’s politics, and for the LibDems and their erstwhile allies that means grabbing any opportunity for mischief, and there was enough of that going on.
Not that their objection was wrong because rules were broken, it was mischievous for the simple reason that instead of objecting to my being allowed to speak and vote under a “Point Of Order” at the instant of the incident’s occurring, they chose to leave it until they could make the maximum mischief from what would otherwise have been a procedural slip-up resulting from my cancer-induced bursting for a piss and committee chair Cllr David Evans’ good nature. (I append my apology to David Evans at the end of this piece.)
Would I have handled the Point of Order for maximum mischief? Probably, but not with the irritating self-righteous smirk I got from Ludlow’s erstwhile man of the match, ‘Bodders’. At the time I was wondering why the hell he was looking so pleased with himself. Should have realised someone was about to get grief.
Having a clear-out of some of the documents relating to the incident, I found the following email I sent to Steve Mulloy a few days after the event. It actually does capture not just my overall feelings relating to the Ironbridge power station application, but my feelings about the way that the planning system has been corrupted in a way that favours central government policy over TRUE place-making policies that local communities would happily support if only they felt that they weren’t being screwed by unimaginative un-elected council officials and outside contractors, which seem to multiply at Shirehall by the week, as witness…
|10.||Procurement of Highways Professional Services Contract PDF 293 KB Lead Member – Councillor Dean Carroll – Portfolio Holder for Physical Infrastructure Report of Mark Barrow, Director of Place – TO FOLLOW Tel: 01743 258919 Additional documents: Appendix 1 2021-09 – Professional Services Outline Business Case FINAL , item 10. PDF 1|
…on the agenda for Cabinet’s meeting on the 1st December 2021.
I’m sure they’re queuing up outside the doors!
Meanwhile, I digress.
Following the meeting of the 20th, I vented my anger and frustration in an email to Steve Mulloy…
What a fucking stitch-up, and Ms Darke showed her hand, and as for those prats [and here I mention two recently-elected councillors], christ.
The vote was always going to be close. Had I voted against it would have been a split one, but then David Evans would have just cast his chair’s vote in support anyway… given the weight the administration placed behind the development’s moving forward would he have dared do a Robert Tindall? I think not. And even if he had, in the immediate, let alone the medium-to-long term, nothing would have changed.
Believe it or not it was my sitting there with that presentation slide of the Ironbridge site on view the whole time that swayed me, not that I took much swaying anyway. Given the weakness of the arguments against the application all people were doing was increasing their pain in the face of, as I said, a stitch-up.
No one took the opportunity (and I don’t except myself here – but see below) to directly challenge Darke’s insistence that the “independent” viability consultant’s independence was compromised by his having worked for the company whose figures he was being paid to challenge. Had my head been fully screwed on (and not screwed up by the way the day had gone up until then) I would have reminded Mrs Darke (and that clown Marshall) that even so much as a TRACE of a pecuniary interest when dealing with local authority affairs is enough to compromise independence, especially when that trace of a pecuniary interest hasn’t been declared!
[NOTE: This preceded the Owen Paterson pantomime, but even then I doubt whether any of the Tories would have made the distinction between screwing the system big-time and, err, screwing the system just a little bit by fudging an ill-defined system that leaves it up to the fudger to decide what they think they ought to be allowed to get away with.]
And that’s the theme of a forthcoming blog!
I thought Claire maintained her dignity in the face of what she had no choice except to accept as inevitable and David Turner was passionate but pointless [I wanted David to address the pointlessness of it all, not try and influence an anyway pointless vote when the outcome was SO inevitable], and I’ve heard him put down similar arguments from others.
And yes, the impact on all the neighbouring communities will be huge. And the Gaskell is the least of their worries, Sheinton Street will be a bloody nightmare but it never got a mention by anyone (they ought to try working on the frontages down there with the quarry lorries thundering past, I have first-hand experience and it is terrifying). The best I can say about Lumby’s pathetic defence of the transport study that makes so little of the increase in traffic is that he can always claim ignorance as his defence.
Steve, listening to Parsons and Boddington, tells me that nothing will change with a change in administration. I heard them when they were part of the committee that dropped the TC Homes development on us here (small as it is, it opens up the way for a further 120 houses on its neighbouring site).
Not a word was said to challenge SC’s housing targets. Did you hear anyone challenging them? In fact all the talk was of the need to take any opportunity on offer to realise those targets, and that was the underlying theme yesterday. Everyone else was wasting their breath.
What I said in my cobbled-up submission said precisely that, whether anyone took it on board or not I don’t know, by the time it had all finished I no longer cared that much.
When I passed through the ante-chamber and saw Jo there interviewing the usual suspects (no wonder Bodders was in such a rush to get away), I was thinking: “Jo, the question you SHOULD be asking is why anyone voted FOR the application.” The answer would have said more about the state of play now than asking the obvious question anyone can see the obvious answer to.
Mind you, I suppose the obvious-obvious question that should have been asked is why that report wasn’t released until two days before the meeting? And why wasn’t Harworth’s man reminded that had that report been submitted at the last committee, with all its compromises, no one would have been wasting their time going over it all again!!
So what DID happen and why?
And here are the texts of the email exchanges between myself and the Planning Committee Chair Cllr David Evans.
I did feel bad about “dropping him in it” because whilst it’s alright pointing out that a procedural point of order doesn’t need much thinking about, especially when the procedure is as a clear cut as it was here, an error of judgement isn’t a capital crime especially one so easily recitified when identified in time to prevent damage (as it wasn’t in this case). But as I said, the value for the LibDems and Labour was in the potential for political mischief, not in the righteousness of their case.
From: Dave Tremellen <Dave.Tremellen@shropshire.gov.uk>
Sent: Wednesday, September 22, 2021 7:49:42 AM
To: David Evans
Cc: David Minnery; Robert Tindall
Sorry about Monday, David, everything conspired against me from the time I left home, and I was frustrated at having to leave the debate having tried to hold on, which is why I actually read out the scribbled note instead of the one-and-a-half typed pages I’d carefully prepared. But thank you for indulging me in that, what I said about cancer being no respecter of sensibilities or orders of debate was a rage against misfortune not an attempt to embarrass you.
It can’t happen again and I’ll speak with both David M and Robert to work something out, which could bugger up the committee membership item on tomorrow’s agenda – which I’m going to miss because I take delivery of a motorised wheelchair tomorrow lunchtime!
Member for Highley Division of Shropshire Council
From: Dave Tremellen <Dave.Tremellen@shropshire.gov.uk>
Sent: 24 September 2021 12:25
To: David Minnery; Robert Tindall
Cc: David Evans
Subject: Planning stuff
Good morning, both. Assuming you’ve heard the news, sorry to be the outlier, but that’s the embuggerment with being an Independent – there’s always one.
You will doubtless by now be aware of the challenge to the vote on the power station, the challenge coming as no surprise to me, except that I expected the challenge (Point of Order) to have come AT the vote, not days after it. Whoever raised the objection knew what they were doing and obviously timed their complaint to maximise both the nuisance caused and the embarrassment to those officers who should have excluded my vote following David’s ruling (albeit subsequently reversed). I have to admit to being surprised at not having my vote disqualified, there were enough senior officers present to have recognised what happened as ‘a point of order’ and raised it despite the telling silence from those councillors who opposed the development; I was amazed that they were able to contain themselves.
With David having told me that having left the debate (for whatever reason, the details aren’t attractive) I was disqualified from speaking in the debate, I was surprised at NOT being told that my vote wouldn’t count either! (I’ve forwarded to both of you my email to David on this score.)
As my email to David makes clear, I was frustrated by BOTH my personal situation AND what the various officers were doing to the planning process (particularly Tracey Darke and her dangerous take on the matter of pecuniary interests – had I challenged her and the developer’s opinion on that we’d have been there all day), and so given the inevitability of the permission now that the increase in AHC is included together with all the other minor and totally ineffectual tweaks, as I said during my ‘speech’, if I voted for the development it wasn’t an approval but an acceptance of the scheme’s inevitability within the greater scheme of things.
I shouldn’t have allowed my personal feelings to influence events but I did, my anger was so great. Given that David had already disqualified me from speaking in the debate, I was surprised at being allowed to speak (in fact I asked David for confirmation) and totally gobsmacked that my actual (though half-hearted) vote had been counted.
But here we are.
I can imagine Robert jumping up and down in his seat.
I’ll leave it up to you guys to decide on a way ahead. I have no objection to standing down.
Apropos that last bit, just bear in mind that I can’t guarantee anything similar won’t happen again, so if you can find another substitute then feel free – although you certainly do not need my permission!