Letter: Haslemere’s NIMBY councillors are defending the indefensible

Tuesday 22nd November 2022 5:00 pm
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Artist's impression of Redwood's proposed 'Scotland Park' plan for Red Court, Haslemere (Photo: ADAM Architecture) ()

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Cllr Dr Kirsten Ellis’ letter (Herald, November 3) complains about councillors being “condemned for the offence of representing the majority of their constituents’ wishes”, and her “being hounded”.

She is, of course, referring to the case where developers put forward plans to build homes near her property.

Like most people, she was upset. Accordingly, she campaigned against the scheme and joined the Haslemere South Residents’ Association (HSRA).

The group opposed development in the area. However, the councillor apparently failed to register an ‘interest’ when voting as a town councillor on associated matters.

Cllr Dr Ellis must have considered the need to show her hand as she sought guidance on the matter from WBC’s Democratic Services. She was told she had to make the call as to whether or not she could be objective. Anyway, Cllr Dr Ellis claims the advice was ambiguous.

Now, if someone tries to build houses close to you, aren’t you bound to be conflicted? And if you oppose it, then isn’t that admittedly the case? Any bloke down the pub would tell you that. You don’t need to have a doctorate to see it.

However, the Doctor ignored the obvious, risked censure and proceeded to vote on matters that could have affected development outcomes locally, including the one close to her home.

Subsequently, she was found to be at fault, since which time she has sought to assuage her “error”, by trying, in my opinion at least, to defend the indefensible.

Personally, I’m surprised the councillor wasn’t found to have a pecuniary interest. Isn’t it a NIMBY rant that their properties lose value if new developments are built close by?

The councillor referred to the Neighbourhood Plan (NP), asking “who else, aside from the developer at Longdene, did not like the outcome?”

She means the NP not changing boundaries to allow for possibility of new homes. She maintained 89 per cent of the surveyed residents did not want large-scale developments on green AONB and AGLV space beyond the current town boundary.

What she failed to say – if she is referring to the NP vote – is that just 18 per cent of the citizenry responded to that survey.

In which case, only 16.02 per cent voted in favour of the plan she holds so sacred.

By any measure, that’s not a ringing endorsement. Most would say it’s meaningless.

There’s good reason for interest in the NP being so pathetic. Haslemere Vision (HV), the group appointed by Haslemere Town Council, failed to address the issues that interested most people.

That, among other things, was the need (or otherwise) to consider new home sites, and where they would go.

HV admitted they did not have the resources to carry out this important task work, and yet they had the chutzpah to take on this most important job. How supercilious is that?

Incredulously, HV left the task of allocating house sites to Waverley Borough Council (WBC). Four years after the first part of the Local Plan was adopted, WBC has still not completed the process of site allocation – a process that was supposed to take six months.

It’s fair to say Haslemere Town Council, having failed to appoint a body capable of addressing housing, left an open goal for developments such at Red Court (granted at appeal), which ironically is the very site that adversely affects Cllr Dr Ellis and her constituents.

Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!

The councillor was allowed to speak as a private individual at the recent town council meeting when she was asked to leave.

Rather than debating the subject, I’m told she verbally attacked some of the councillors. She did so again in last week’s Herald. Some people don’t know when to stop.

Cllr Dr Ellis has said much about the time wasted (“appalling”) and taxpayers’ money spent (“£20,000-plus”), on this craziness, and that others should be made to pay for it.

Surely it’s the good councillor who should be putting a hand in her pocket? After all, she admitted “the vote would have passed had she voted or not.”

Bearing in mind anyone with a half-penn’orth of nous (never mind a doctorate) could have foreseen a conflict, then the councillor should have declared an interest and left the chamber.

I won’t hold my breath, but the good councillor should apologise to the public servants and councillors she has abused. She should accept this farrago was purely of her own making.

As a gesture of contrition, she should at least cough up and make a donation to one of the many worthy charities we have in Haslemere.

Then, hopefully, our councillors can put pettifogging politics and acrimony behind them, and focus on the real problems facing our community.

A Lawson, Haslemere

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