‘Club de­ci­sion a waste of money’

Ref­er­en­dums over Winkers cost tax­pay­ers thou­sands

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS - by Tom Her­bert tom.her­bert@trin­i­tymir­ror.com Twit­ter:@TRHer­bert

CHILTERN Dis­trict Coun­cil (CDC) has been accused of wast­ing public money over its de­ci­sion to in­clude Winkers night­club as a com­mu­nity fa­cil­ity in Chal­font St Peter’s Neigh­bour­hood Plan (NP).

But CDC said its de­ci­sion was in line with the plan ‘as writ­ten by the par­ish coun­cil’ and con­firmed a ref­er­en­dum held last year cost £13,000, of which £10,000 was funded by cen­tral govern­ment.

An­tic­i­pated costs of a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum, set to be held in Septem­ber, are ex­pected to be sim­i­lar but with­out any cen­tral govern­ment fund­ing.

Vil­lagers voted in favour of the NP dur­ing last year’s ref­er­en­dum, but the out­come was later quashed by the High Court af­ter the judge ruled in favour of an ex­am­iner’s re­port which said Winkers should not be des­ig­nated a com­mu­nity fa­cil­ity.

Coun­cil­lors there­fore agreed to hold the sec­ond bal­lot at a cab­i­net meet­ing in April, but this time with­out the in­clu­sion of the night­club.

Cam­paign­ers are dis­ap­pointed it has got to this stage.

Karen Dick­son said: “I am very dis­ap­pointed with the way that CDC has han­dled our NP. I felt very strongly at the time, and still do, that the ref­er­en­dum held in 2015 was an un­nec­es­sary waste of public money.

“All NP leg­isla­tive guide­lines state that plan­ning de­ci­sions made in a NP have to be based on ev­i­dence, and no ev­i­dence was gathered to prove whether Winkers did or did not fit the le­gal def­i­ni­tion of a com­mu­nity fa­cil­ity.

“CDC should have known that, and I am dis­ap­pointed that it has taken a ju­di­cial re­view, and a great, great deal of tax pay­ers’ money to re­mind CDC that rules are meant to be fol­lowed.”

Richard Allen ques­tioned whether NPs are rel­e­vant, ar­gu­ing they are ‘badly thought through’ and that all they do is cause ‘con­flict within the plan­ning depart­ment’.

He said: “I just thought how much more money are we go­ing to throw at this?

“What’s in there that jus­ti­fies all this ef­fort?”

Mr Allen said he is ‘dis­ap­pointed’ with NP leg­is­la­tion but ‘can’t crit­i­cise the work that peo­ple have done be­cause peo­ple have spent a lot of time with it’.

He added: “All [CDC] had to do is re­move it and we wouldn’t have ended up with that.

“I crit­i­cise the fact that we ended up hav­ing to do the ref­er­en­dum and the ju­di­cial re­view – that was avoid­able.”

A CDC spokesper­son said: “Neigh­bour­hood Plans are a na­tional govern­ment ini­tia­tive and CDC is legally re­quired to sup­port com­mu­ni­ties in bring­ing plans for­ward.

“The peo­ple of Chal­font St Peter have spent a great deal of time and ef­fort on de­vel­op­ing an NP.

“As the par­ish has ex­pressed a strong de­sire to have a NP, it is in­cum­bent upon the coun­cil to fa­cil­i­tate the process.

“A sec­ond ref­er­en­dum does in­evitably in­cur cost, how­ever, this is a nec­es­sary part of the process fol­low­ing a high court rul­ing.

“If the plan passes the ref­er­en­dum and is made, the plan will be used in the de­ter­mi­na­tion of fu­ture de­vel­op­ment de­ci­sions.

“The dis­trict coun­cil con­sid­ered that a lit­eral in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the rec­om­men­da­tion would have led to the NP be­ing in­con­sis­tent with the re­main­der of the De­vel­op­ment Plan.”

Winkers Night­club Com­mu­nity de­ci­sion:

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