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Bristol Councillors who will be voting on Fifth Capital’s controversial planning application have declined from publicly indicating their voting intentions, wrongly citing reasons why.

The Bristol Cable asked Councillors how they will be voting on Fifth Capital’s Carriageworks planning application. Refusing to answer, they referred to the  Code of Conduct, saying that they must maintain an ‘open mind’ in order to decide on the merits of any particular application, without a predetermined opinion.

However on further research, it seems clear that the Code in fact does allow Councillors (who are elected on political platforms) to indicate intentions and even campaign for or against a particular application. The cited Code of Conduct states “The need for Councillors to inform constituents of at least an initial view on a matter as part of their public role.”

The Code further states:

“(3.1) With this provision the Government expect councillors to be able to publicise their views on issues, indicate their voting intentions and to engage fully with their local communities without this affecting their participation in the council’s formal decision making.” 

Councillor Smith of Bedminister was “surprised [The Bristol Cable] are unfamiliar with planning law and the code of conduct”. Whilst the Code states that councillors will still need to be open minded at the point of decision the following paragraph could suggest that Councillor Smith and others may have misinterpreted the rules, placing undue restrictions upon themselves and preventing the public from gaining information their representatives’ preliminary positions:

“(3.1) [Thus], if a councillor has campaigned on an issue or made public statements about their approach to an item of council business, he or she will be able to participate in discussion of that issue in the council and to vote on it if it arises in an item of council business requiring a decision.” 

Indeed, even the ‘open mind’ requirement is referred to as the “…need to be open minded at the point of decision in the sense of listening to all of the arguments, and weighing them against their preferred outcome..” (Emphasis added)

The Code does caution against making ‘extreme’ statements such as ” ‘Over my dead body will that planning application be approved’ ” because such statements  “could be said to have predetermined the decision.” (Emphasis added).

Councillor Telford (Ashley) who has publicly stated strong opposition and submitted an objection to the application may be excluded from voting on this ground. However the rules clearly state that Councillors are allowed, and indeed expected, to have a “preferred outcome” and can (and should?) inform the public of this preference.

The Bristol Cable has invited the Councillors to make further comment in light of this information.

This development has attracted particular interest and controversy due to the nature of Fifth Capital’s planning application which proposes luxury flats, extremely minimal ‘affordable’ housing and no guarantees for independent local business and the failure to engage with the Carriageworks Community Vision.

The Councillors (and their emails) who will decide on the Carriageworks development @ Control Development Committee (A), April 8th, 18:00. 

Fabian BRECKELS, Role: Member, Party: Labour
Richard Stephen EDDY, Role: Member, Party: Conservative
Fi HANCE, Role: Member, Party: Lib Dem
Mahmadur KHAN, Role: Member, Party: Labour 
Charles James Hastings LUCAS, Role: Member, Party: Conservative
Susan Margaret MILESTONE, Role: Member, Party: Labour 
Steve PEARCE, Role: Member, Party: Labour
Kevin Michael QUARTLEY, Role: Member, Party: Conservative
Colin John SMITH, Role: Member, Party: Labour
 *Rob TELFORD – Party Whip, Role: Vice-Chair, Party: Green. (see below)
Alex WOODMAN, Role: Chair, Party: Lib Dem
Dr. Mark WRIGHT, Role: Member, Party: Lib Dem

*Mr Telford informed The Bristol Cable that he is excluded from voting due to the above cited rules following submission of a planning application.

 

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