Council leader Chris Shaw raises heat in Cleethorpes right of way planning dispute
COUNCIL leader Chris Shaw has called for a full inquiry into his claims that a Conservative councillor misled the planning committee.
As reported, Councillor Shaw (Lab, Sidney Sussex) made the accusation against Councillor Philip Jackson (Con, Waltham) at last week's full council meeting in Immingham.
Meanwhile, Councillor Jackson, who has admitted making an "error", has lodged a formal complaint about Councillor Shaw's conduct at the meeting, where he raised the issue on an unrelated agenda item.
Councillor Shaw's comments related to the discussion of a planning application for a right of way along the Cleethorpes coastline.
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The application was initially granted on April 6 of last year, only for it to come back before the planning committee on June 29, when it was refused.
The latter decision was taken to appeal by the applicant, Cleethorpes resident Robert Palmer, and partly overturned by the Planning Inspectorate.
Now, Councillor Shaw has revealed that Associated British Ports (ABP), which owns most of the land through which the proposed footpath will run, has signalled its intention to appeal.
He said such a move would trigger a costly public inquiry for which rate payers in North East Lincolnshire will have to foot the bill.
Councillor Shaw, who has written to the authority's chief executive Tony Hunter requesting that the authority's handling of the affair be investigated, said: "If it goes to a public inquiry, North East Lincolnshire rate payers will have to pay the cost.
"We will have to stand the cost of the application, the accommodation, and we will have to give evidence, which will take up officer time. All because Councillor Jackson misled the planning committee."
As reported, Councillor Shaw raised the same issue at a full council meeting in September last year, claiming that the council had broken its own rules by allowing the same application to come before the committee twice within the space of six months. The council's monitoring officer Rob Walsh asked the head of legal services to investigate, but it is unclear whether this happened.
Councillor Shaw claims that Councillor Jackson, who was deputy chairman of the planning committee at the time, misled other members at last year's June 29 meeting over the decision taken over the footpath at the meeting on April 4.
The minutes of the June 29 meeting record Councillor Jackson reminding the committee that in April "members had resolved, in his view, that officers be requested to look at this again".
However, the minutes of the April 4 meeting show that the committee voted 6-5 to designate the footpath as a right of way.
Councillor Shaw says that if the committee had stuck to its original decision to grant the footpath, ABP's only recourse would have been to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.
But because the appeal to the Planning Inspectorate was made by the applicant Mr Palmer, ABP now has the option of triggering a costly public inquiry.
Although ABP would not comment on whether it intended to appeal, Councillor Shaw said it had told the council "in no uncertain terms" that it would do.
Councillor Shaw added: "I want to know who insisted on the application coming back to the committee and who allowed officers to break the council's constitution."
Councillor Jackson said: "I admit that when this came back to the planning committee in June last year, I did make an error. I was confused about what had been agreed on the footpath three months previously and I apologise for getting it wrong. It was not a deliberate ploy to mislead the planning committee.
"I have made a formal complaint about Councillor Shaw's behaviour to the chief executive. I believe he has breached the code of conduct.
"If he has got an allegation to make against me he should have made a formal complaint through the proper channels, not blurted it out on an unrelated agenda item when there was no opportunity for me to respond."
In response, Councillor Shaw said: "If Councillor Jackson wants to report me that's fine, but I do not think I was out of order.
"I think I raised it at the appropriate time. It was a public meeting and the public needs to be aware that Councillor Jackson misled the planning committee."