Planning meetings are always much the same; councillors ask questions,
occasionally very silly questions, and the planning officers provide a ready
answer. These guys do not provide any
Linda Tottman or
Holkham moments; ignorant fudging and bluffing is not their way. What Mr. Stone
and his gang don’t know is not worth knowing. An example of a silly questioner was councillor
Mike Slaughter who asked how vehicles could access some premises, not realising
that the outline car shown on the plan was there to illustrate how vehicles
would make an exit, it wasn’t an immovable fixture.
Then you get the grandstanding councillors, anxious to show they are on their voters’ side by saying how much they deprecate the application, knowing full well there is nothing that can be done to stop the approval. Last night the role of King Cnut (†) fell on councillor Melvin Seymour adorned with his trademark glasses on his head and from my angle of view, constantly draped by a mystery blonde, conjuring up images of a 1940’s spiv. His contribution might be summarised as “Which Cnut would live in a house like this?”
Another spectacle seen only at planning meetings is one Conservative councillor arguing against another. This time it was councillor June Slaughter who put forward a well argued case only to see councillor Val Clark attempt to debunk it. The latter’s case fell apart when a photograph was produced to prove she was talking bunkum.
And so we eventually got to see the main bout of the evening, the heavyweight contest between Bexley Cabs and the massed armies of objectors. Who would prove to have been telling the truth? I am not sure there was definitive proof either way, but the circumstantial evidence was compelling.
The police had said about the claims made by Ms. Byrne in her application…
Need one say more? If so maybe the comment by the owner of Bar Lorca will prove conclusive.
Mr. Mallen made the same point even more forcibly when he addressed the Committee. The Chairman of Bexley Village Pubsafe said none of their members had been approached by anyone from Bexley Cabs.
Mark Campbell begged to differ and claimed some publicans supported him. He presented a Jeremy Clarkson style figure with his jeans and Jack the Lad demeanour but made some good points. He said the proposed exit from his premises adjacent to a pedestrian crossing was replicated at the two other crossings in the village, and I checked later; he is right.
Mr. Campbell tried to explain that a modern taxi dispatching system is not how one might imagine it to be. I suspect that it is an integration of mobile telephony, computers and sat navs and he may well be right that there would be little need for cars to be stationed on the premises. There are lots of cab companies on high streets without parking facilities. However he conceded that he could be operating up to 30 cars and clearly his eye is on the business to be generated by the village night life and customers would probably expect to be able to get a cab at a cab office. There was scope for an interesting debate, but there was none.
Councillor Kerry Allon lost no time in destroying his chances of becoming a Cabinet member. He said he was struck by the lack of local support, the health and safety issues, the environmental impact, the police recommendation and that of the planning office. Everyone is against it he said and without more ado moved to refuse the application, and he was supported unanimously. The game was over. Or was it?
The audience response was low key, no cheers or cries of Shame, just the sound of Mark Campbell’s supporter telling the objectors the business was going to open anyway and it would take three years to be shut down. If the statements and presentation had not provided absolute proof of who was the fibber, a promise to ignore the refusal probably would. If it proves to be more than loose tongued bravado villagers can always complain to their ward councillor. His name is Colin Campbell and may be found at 25 Camden Road, Bexley, DA5 3NS. Telephone: 01322 525456.
† The Danish spelling of King Canute. If you don’t believe it, look it up.