Sunday, 4 June 2017
How Hemingbrough became one of the most publicly scrutinised Parish Councils in Britain (2)
A former H-SWAG (Hemingbrough Sewerage Works Action Group) Member concerned about new Planning Applications around Orchard End asked for a re-run of this series. It has been sanitised.
The Stench of Sewerage, Parish Council Deceit, Dishonesty and Blatant Lies. (2)
The Parish Council’s website, under the control of Cllr S. Strelczenie, the Chairman’s wife, described the “very constructive” “public relations meeting” to discuss the “Essential Upgrade to Hemingbrough Waste Water Treatment Works” and the Council’s offer “to leaflet Main Street” asking residents to keep their cars clear of the expected heavy traffic. Residents found out later it would be a larger plant, in a separate, unscreened, visible location.
This ‘very constructive public relations meeting’ had obviously satisfied Parish Councillors and they had decided in that closed meeting to support Yorkshire Water’s plan application, WITHOUT TELLING THE RESIDENTS!
A diligent Parish Clerk should have instructed Councillors “at a private meeting those present may not conduct any formal business that leads to them reaching any decisions in the name of the Parish Council unless the meeting is held in accordance with the legal requirements” of the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1980.” Maybe he knew nobody would listen to him!
IN SIMPLE TERMS, A PARISH COUNCIL MUST NOT HAVE A PRIVATE, CLOSED-TO-THE-PUBLIC MEETING WITH A PLANNING APPLICANT AND COME TO ANY DECISION, AND CERTAINLY MUST NOT ASK THE APPLICANT FOR ANYTHING BEHIND THOSE CLOSED DOORS. THERE MUST BE NO HINT, SUSPICION OR UNVOICED UNDERSTANDING OF “SOMETHING FOR YOU, SOMETHING FOR US”.
When details of that ‘Special (closed) Meeting’ leaked out, all hell let loose and those words associated with Hemingbrough Parish Council – Deceit, Dishonesty, Disagreements and Lies - were back in play.
The Village Institute is not a very big place - the size of a small Village School classroom. One could swing around the proverbial cat and get one or two flying pigs in there, just. It would be impossible for anyone in there not to know what was happening, unless they were in the single lavatory for some considerable time. Even then, Councillors have been overheard on their mobile phones by their colleagues when spending too much time in there.
The eight Parish Councillors could not agree what had happened around that small Village Institute table. The dominant Gang had one version, and three Hagg Lane Green Councillors had a completely different view.
‘The Three’ were in no doubt that Yorkshire Water had brought their actual plans to that private, closed meeting for comment by the Parish Council in advance of a public meeting. Yorkshire Water’s Communications Manager called the site drawings ‘Plans’ but changed his choice of word to ‘Drawings’ when he realised there was some sensitivity about that term.
The ‘sensitivity’ was that when the three Hagg Lane Councillors, McCann, Pickering and Senior, realised they were expected by the Council Chairman to comment on those plans that were being passed around at the closed meeting, they refused to take part in that process.
‘The Three’ were so concerned about the breach of regulations, they asked the Parish Clerk to minute their actions. Subsequently, they declared interests [because of their presence at that closed meeting] in the planning application at the next public Parish Council meeting and left the room when those plans were put before the Parish Councillors for ‘comment’.
In ‘Monopoly’ terms, Hemingbrough Councillors hadn’t got past the Old Kent Road before they were mired in the muck.
They couldn’t all be telling the truth! ‘The Five’ said they “hadn’t seen anything to do with the plans” at that special meeting closed to residents. ‘The Three’ said Plans had been passed around by Yorkshire Water, the planning applicant, for Parish Council comment. One Group was right and one Group was wrong. One Group was telling the truth, the other Group was telling lies.
The Parish Clerk’s Official Notes of 13 February of what happened at that meeting were agreed by Councillors to be a ‘fair summary’, but the Notes omitted key details. Were Plans, Drawings, call them what you will, passed around for comment by Councillors? Were those Plans, etc. to be a part of Yorkshire’s actual planning application? Did three Councillors refuse to take part in that process? Did three Councillors ask the Clerk to note their unwillingness to take part in that process? If they did, why did he not include that information in his “fair summary”? Fair summary? 30££0(}$!
A change of Clerk avoided a complaint that the Council had prepared “a fair summary” of the ‘useful discussions’ and entered them into the Council’s legal record as such, when they were anything but a fair description of events.
To be continued .../