In in this particular post, we had hoped to write about something different than affairs surrounding our village council, but (sadly) they seem to have come to the fore again.
In this post, we’ll look at: the unexplained resignations that recently occurred; the council’s odd reaction to a planning document; and a ban on mentioning council matters on the village Facebook page.
For those who don’t know, we had the resignation of nearly half of our councillors suddenly, and apparently simultaneously, from Draycott Council. The three councillors were the younger members of the council, and all three had been newly-elected in 2019.
The suddeness of it is very strange as, at May’s council meeting, these same councillors had been sorting out their roles for the coming year of 2021/2.
The trio’s resignation letters gave very little detail as to why they made their decisions, but there seems no reason to think it was a joint resignation by the trio. One of the resigners had not been attending that many meetings recently anyway; and another has since explained the one of the reasons for her resignation was that the overwhelming stress of the Covid lockdown was just adding to her already difficult caring responsibilities.
There were though strange hints at the council’s June meeting that some sort of poison-pen activity was going on. However, this seems unlikely, as it is a criminal offence to target a public official – councils are urged to report that sort of thing to the police – and no suggestion of that has come out officially. (Although, in fact, there has been poison pen activity at Draycott Council in the recent past, when a chair of the council felt compelled to resign in disgust).
Some folk have also thought a possible trigger for the resignations was an article criticising the council’s lack of action on some matters – but that was published in mid-April, a full three weeks before the resignations.
So, who knows what really happened? Is it possible that the resigners were simply just very tired? Covid has made life very difficult for all of us, and the extra stresses it has brought with it have not made life much fun.
One outcome of the resignations is that residents now have to decide if they want an election to replace the resigners; the deadline for a decision is this Sunday (28th June). To see how all that would work, click here.
One of the few tasks that Draycott Council has an obligation to carry out is to scrutinise planning documents that are put before it. However, at their June meeting, the councillors had a surprising reaction to a document assessing the environmental issues on the new proposed Blythe Fields (Phase Two) housing estate. (This is the second of three large housing estates planned to be built in our neighbourhood).
They claimed the document was unreadable… One councillor said it was “nonsense”, another that it was “gobbledegook”, while the other councillors simply remained silent – and the council simply then refused to deal with it.
This was a puzzle to us! Though it’s in normal ‘officialese’, it didn’t seem that hard to read. (Have a go yourself – click here to see the document).
And it’s a shame the councillors didn’t try a bit harder, as there are some details in the document that are very important.
The document reveals for the first time: how many houses will be on the proposed development (up to 230); the estimated traffic movements on the site (over 1000 a day); the concerns about air pollution from the A50 in the new homes; and a previously-unheard assertion that local people will likely get houses on the new estate. The document also reveals that some of the agricultural land that will be lost to the development is of the ‘best’ quality. All this should have been questioned by the council in a formal response – which they ducked out of.
The developers must thank their lucky stars for what an easy ride they are getting!!
As it is, only two responses were lodged in the public consultation, one by a local resident – to see them, click on the EIA (Blythe Fields) Application page, and scroll down to the bottom where you’ll find the two responses.
We have pleaded with the council in the past to invite local residents with expertise in the planning field to act as their ‘advisors’ , especially at times when they feel unable to cope – but our advice has fallen on deaf ears so far.
… which means that the developers can carry on happily, with barely an ounce of scrutiny from our representatives.
Finally, one outcome of all this is that the administrator of the village facebook page has placed a ban on discussion of anything to do with the village council.
All sorts of wild talk and accusations were flying about on the page following the resignations, and the Shouters & Bawlers (as Facebook calls them) were indeed getting aggressive – writing in capitals, targeting individuals, and all the other well-known signs. So the administrator’s actions are understandable.
It is a shame though. Our council’s decisions (or lack of) are rightly the focus of how this small district sees itself and how it wants to progress. People often feel relatively helpless, and look to the council for leadership and communication, as well as some response to their worries.
So, It is a great shame that there is now no local forum on which to discuss and debate (in reasonable and evidenced ways, naturally) anything to do with the council.
Modern life, eh?
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