A Wilmslow Town Councillor has heavily criticised their failure to attend a recent meeting of the Northern Planning Committee (NPC) and influence their decision on a controversial planning application.
Speaking at the Wilmslow Town Council (WTC) meeting on Monday, 19th February, Councillor Mark Goldsmith raised the issue that Wilmslow Town Council had the opportunity to speak when the Lidl application to build a larger store at Summerfields Village was discussed at the Northern Planning Committee for the second time on February 14th, but chose not to.
Justifying the decision not to attend, Chairman of WTC, Martin Watkins said "This was a deferred meeting, it was a continuation of the first meeting and if you read the minutes the position of WTC is very clearly recorded in those minutes and it's repeated as this was a deferred meeting."
Councillor Mark Goldsmith, who attended the Northern Planning Committee meeting on February 14th responded "It wasn't, no. I was there at the deferred meeting."
He added "Every other party spoke at that meeting, they all repeated, or made new comments. New people spoke, everybody said different things."
Cllr Martin Watkins said "What I am saying is that the position of WTC was very clearly put and I have checked in those minutes."
Councillor Mark Goldsmith responded "It was clearly put on the 8th of December but we had an opportunity to reiterate that on 14th February.
"Everyone else spoke and you could actually have told everybody at that committee about Halliwell Jones' other site." (It was raised during the Town Council meeting that the fact Halliwell Jones have applied to build a new car dealership on land at Coppice Way in Handforth, relocating their MINI dealership from Summerfields, will free up a lot of parking spaces currently used by MINI.)
He continued "It's in the constitution of Cheshire East that we have three minutes to speak, as does everybody else, and I think we should have taken that. We may have persuaded one councillor. All we had to do is persuade one councillor to abstain, rather than voting for the deferral and we may have won that case.
"There were 415 people who complained from Wilmslow Town Centre about that development and we did nothing to speak up for them. We had the opportunity, we were invited to speak for them."
Some councillors responded by saying that it was "rubbish", to which Councillor Goldsmith said "It is not rubbish at all. We never really spoke out about it at the start."
Councillor Keith Purdom responded that the planning committee of Wilmslow Town Council debated attending this second meeting and they decided "it was pointless" because Wilmslow Town Council had already made their position clear.
Councillor Goldsmith replied "It was not clear at all. Even during the meeting they asked what Esther McVey's position was because they didn't have that to hand. If they don't know what the MP wrote why would they know the intricacies of what WTC said."
Councillor David Jefferies commented" I think it is a bit ambiguous when we have these Northern Planning Committee meetings about whether we are going to attend or not. Maybe it's a topic for the planning committee to discuss at one of our meetings about some sort of policy about when we attend and when we don't."
Mark Goldsmith continued "I just refer you to the Good Councillor's Guide which I was given when I joined. 'As one planning officer observed there are those local councils who understand the system, who have influence and there are those that don't. Local councils can spend hours on development control but forget that it is equally important to influence the policies of the planning authority. I think we failed completely to try and influence the planning authority at this instance."