You may recall our previous letter in which we outlined Cranage Parish Council’s plans for the Paddock (land on Middlewich Road Cranage) You may also recall that residents overwhelmingly voted against selling the land. Despite this, two Councillors were, and remain intent on ignoring residents’ wishes and are pressing for the sale and development of this land.
A significant number of Cranage residents attended the Parish Council meeting in September 2013, in order to voice their objections to development, during which Mr Irlam, the then Chairman, declared that he still wanted to sell the land and that the matter would be deferred to the meeting in November.
Since then, Mr Irlam has resigned, as has another Councillor, J Worstencroft, who was also in favour of selling. The issue of the Paddock was not raised in the November meeting and many of you would assume that this would be the end of the matter. However, this is not the case and the issue of the sale of this land and its development is on the agenda for the Parish Council meeting in Cranage Village Hall on Tuesday 7th January 2014 at 7.30 pm.
The December Parish Council Newsletter
The Parish Council newsletter, distributed to residents in December 2013, contains a clear reference to a ‘successful’ application to the Housing Challenge fund, which would result in the Parish Council gaining £150,000. We have long maintained that the aim of the fund is to encourage developers and kick-start stalled developments. The Housing Challenge rules mean that the Parish Council is simply not allowed to get any money from the fund. The Parish Council ignored our warnings and spent more than £1000.00 of our precepts/council tax on this application.
We now have proof from Cheshire East Council, which we have made available to the new chairman, that the Parish Council’s application was unsuccessful. Moreover, even if it had succeeded the funds would have been given to the developers, NOT the Parish Council.
The newsletter also referred to the by-election which came about as a result of Mr Irlam’s resignation from the Parish Council. It drew attention to the fact that 10 residents had called for an election and to the potential financial cost to the Parish Council should an election be held.
It failed to mention that in this instance Mr Mike Hodge, as the only person to have submitted his name to Cheshire East Council, was an uncontested candidate, and so, had been elected without the Parish Council incurring the cost of holding an election.
We believe that the wording of this part of the newsletter is most regrettable. Drawing attention to the financial cost to the Parish Council of holding an election could deter residents from exercising their democratic rights to call for an election or, from putting themselves forward as prospective councillors. If there is to be a cost to the Parish then it should not be allowed to influence the democratic process.
Parish Council Response
We requested a meeting with new Chairman, D Hopley, so that we could discuss our concerns regarding the December newsletter and its misleading information. Mr Hopley stated that the newsletter had been prepared and printed by the clerk
After he consulted with the other members of the parish council they decided that the December newsletter had been missread by a few residents and there was no need to publish and distribute an amendment/correction letter.
What do we make of all this? It seems that there are still some Councillors that are in favour of selling the land despite the fact that there is an overwhelming number of residents have voted against it. They seem unwilling to understand that they have a duty to represent the views of the residents,
It’s clear that residents want to protect the Paddock from development at this present time.
We believe that the best way of ensuring that the land is protected, and that residents views are taken into account, is to put the Land inTrust.
This would reflect the original intention of the Cranage Enclosure award of 1782 which led to the land being given to the Township of Cranage, the predecessor of our Parish Council, for the benefit of ‘ the poor of Cranage’
We have obtained legal advice on this matter and been informed that the costs are not excessive to draw up a document.
In effect it would put residents in control of the paddock, and if in the future there was a specific requirement for funds for a project, then if a majority of residents wish to sell, then the trustees would be in a position to do so.
We would urge residents to attend the Parish Council meeting at 7.30 PM on Tuesday 7 January 2014 at Cranage Village Hall.
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