Last night the 27th of June it was my misfortune to attend the parish council meeting.
This was the most bizarre meeting I have ever attended, firstly a lady had been invited to explain the procedure for implementing a neighbourhood plan, and unfortunately due to ill health the two councillors who at the previous meeting agreed to start to look at the procedure were not in attendance. Nor had it been advertised to allow residents who may have had a view on this to attend.
This delayed the start of the council meeting and they then decide to not adhere to the agenda but to just deal with things where they had a report, so the meeting could close at the earliest possible time.
In the event they got through most of the items quickly, voting to donate £100 to the memorial garden that the Holmes chapel school is doing in memory of the arena bomb victim .
New councillor Allister Townson was tasked with putting something together to go out in the next news letter regarding the adult play area proposed near the Needham drive estate,
Concerns were raised over if there was a significant customer base that would use the outdoor equipment, along with maintenance and insurance issues and if it would attract vandalism, the existing play equipment and the bowling club have already been vandalised!
Given the excellent equipment in the area , the Cranage Hall Conference centre ,Holmes Chapel new facilities’, and in Goostrey all with parking and toilets etc. It does raise the question is this a sensible thing to spend resources on. Who is going to use it in the winter months when it’s dark and wet.
Then we came to Mr Michel Cohen a new councillor attending his first meeting although he was co-opted on at the previous meeting at which he didn’t attend.
He wished to discuss the paddock ,this you may recall has been a hot topic for months and months , the council spent £6500 on legal fees to put this land in a separate company to ensure that it could not be developed without the residents in a referendum agreeing to sell there asset. Then at the last minute decide not to complete but to alter the standing orders and that would suffice. The orders were amended at the last meeting and assurances were given that the paddock would not be developed.
Mr Cohen wants to build four executive houses on the paddock valued at £400.000 each for no cost to the council and the council can then rent these out and keep the income, he said he and his partners would pay the £150.000 to £200.000 cost and he would put play equipment on his six acres directly behind the paddock.
He said the council could use the income for anything they wished say buying a wheel chair for someone or buying a bus with a driver to serve the community.
Councillor Mike Hodge pointed out that a referendum had clearly shown what residents wanted and that was to keep this land for use as a grazing paddock.
What Mr Cohen fails to understand, due no doubt to only attending a couple of meetings in the last four years is that the parish council wanted to build four executive house or at least get planning for them and then sell the paddock, they were told quite clearly by Cheshire east this was a nonstarter but they would consider ten low cost houses, this is what the council then did. Then events overtook them when residents who are the actual owners found out and subsequent actions resulted in the referendum result not to sell or develop the paddock.
Mr Cohen then went on to say it could result in 40 houses being built but was not specific how much of his land would be used. He also said he had been approached by costa coffee and a petroleum company to build on his land.
What do we make of all this ,well this is the most bizarre thing I have ever heard, firstly we have a councillor who wishes to disregard the standing orders which seem to be very weak which is what we have said before, he wishes to ignore the residents and there strongly held views.
If he can build one point six million pounds of housing for two hundred thousand pounds then I can find him dozens of willing customers.
The fact that his land is immediately behind the paddock and is effectively land locked leads one to think he wants access over the paddock.
That he will not get planning for any housing on that land till at least 2030 seems to escape him. And even then it’s doubtful. This was confirmed by a Cheshire east officer today.
That the PC cannot act in the role of landlord so cannot get this income, that’s the legislation that exists. Nor can it give individuals grants or equipment or run a bus service. Again all laid down in legislation.
Also and the most serious part is this, if he pursues this whilst being a serving councillor he will have to declare a pecuniary interest which means he can’t discuss or vote on any part to do with the paddock and must be instructed to leave the room.
The clerk must instruct him on this, any violations should and will be reported directly to the monitoring officer at Cheshire east failure to comply will result in criminal proceedings; this is all laid down in the localism act.
Despite the council giving assurances on protecting the paddock even before the ink is dry on the conditions we see this happening, which we did point out that forming company held by residents would stop any councillor or anyone from taking such action now or in the future.
I hate to say I told you so, but I did.