Shepway District Council instructed the boutique law firm of Solicitors – Linda S Russell (pictured) who specialise in planning and property in their defence of the Judicial Review brought by Mr Tim Steer last Thursday at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. It is not known yet how much they or the barristers were paid as the February Payment to Suppliers data is not out until sometime early next month. SDC’s Barrister was Mr Daniel Stedman Jones of 39 Essex Chambers.
During the trial, evidence supplied by SDC Officer, Ben Geering Head of Planning (pictured) and another SDC planning officer was dismissed. It was dismissed on the grounds that it was post facto as recording of the events had been provided as evidence in the case – taken on the 28th March – the evidence went beyond “elucidating”, indeed it filled in the gaps in SDC’s minutes of the 28th Feburary, according to witnesses in the public gallery, therefore it was dismissed. The judge asked the question why SDC had not recorded the planning & licensing committee meeting of the 28th February 2017.
Now for those of you who do not know, SDC have in the main council chamber a camera system allowing them to broadcast live, via the web, any of their meetings (one of three pictured). It cost in excess of £40,000 to install and the new microphone system cost approximately £20,000. So in excess of 60,000 in total has been spent. The web cam system was installed approximately two years ago and has not been used once to broadcast live pictures of the goings on in the Council chamber.
Now in SDC’s Local_Code_of_Corporate_Governance 2017/18 it states at page 5, para 5:
5. We will ensure that the Council as a whole is open and accessible to the community, service users and staff and we are committed to openness and transparency in all dealings.
Those last three words are unequivocal and yet when it comes to openness & transparency regarding the webcam system, we are yet to see any live pictures, so we are all in the dark as to the goings on in the chamber. Is that open and transparent? We think not, but leave you to make up your own mind.
It would therefore suggest that the evidence and the minutes of the meeting; which can been seen here (No 2) Y16/0623/SH: Little Densole Farm, Canterbury Road, Densole, did not sufficiently reflect the reality of what transpired in the chamber on the 28th February.
One of the grounds for the Judicial Review was
Irrational finding that development would not harm the AONB
Cllr Philip Martin (pictured), who was present at the Planning & Licensing committee on the 28th Feb 2017, is SDC’s representative on the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Joint Advisory Committee and he said nothing substantive, nor did he protect the AONB, as he and other Cllrs believed “there would not be harm to the AONB“. An AONB is given the highest status of protection in the National Planning Policy Framework, para 115 & 116 (pages 27 & 28).
In all seven conservative Cllrs and one UKIP Cllr (Cllr Len Laws) voted to approve planning permission, while two UKIP Cllrs, Cllrs Mary Lawes (pictured) and Susie Govett (pictured) abstained.
Now for those of you who are not aware there is a strong connection between Cllr Monk and the Westgarth’s, who own Little Densole Farm. According to Companies House there were two mortgages on Cllr Monk’s home address. One by the Westgarths and one by Mrs Monk. That though is not the only connection. In 2013 Cllr Monk and his wife went to Spain on holiday, but it was cut short. On their return they could not return to their house as the builders were in, so were put up by the Westgarth’s.
That’s not where it ends, Milldown Associates Limited bore pride of place on a plaque which was on the wall outside a business in Canterbury, called – All Health Matters in which Cllr Monk and his wife are Directors. Since the news of the Judicial Review the plaque has been removed. We wonder why?
So while we sit and wait for the judgment to be handed down, the moral of the story is, if you have a planning application going before the Planning & Licensing Committee, record it on your phone, or use a video, you are allowed.
The Shepwayvox Team