‘Club decision a waste of money’
Referendums over Winkers cost taxpayers thousands
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: