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Comments by the Cabinet Member for Planning


When Arun District Council announced its Core Strategy Issues and Options public consultation in the autumn of 2005 it organised a series of public exhibitions – 5 days each in Littlehampton, Bognor and Arundel. The Five Villages area was excluded (so was Angmering) even though it has a combined population far higher than Arundel and it was also an area under consideration for large-scale development, whereas Arundel was not.

Despite protests from the public and District Councillors Arun refused to hold an exhibition in the Five Villages.

Residents in Aldingbourne were already aware of, and sensitive to, development proposals made at the time of the Structure Plan and were concerned at the Council’s refusal to provide an LDF exhibition in the Five Villages. They requested a public meeting.

At the public meeting residents were briefed on the newly introduced LDF procedure, the nature of the first public consultation and were each given a copy of the consultation questionnaire. These were completed by residents in the privacy of their own homes.

There would have been no need for a public meeting if the Council had carried out its consultation properly and included an exhibition in the Five Villages.

Then, on 24th September 2008, Councillor Bower, Cabinet Member for Planning stated on the BBC’s Inside Out programme that;

Cllr. Bower – “50% of the responses came from one parish namely Aldingbourne and of those responses something like 91% of those who responded from Aldingbourne all said that Ford should be in the top three of their choices. It made us sit up and think – has this been an organised response? Was this something that there was an organisation behind perhaps?”

and

BBC – “If the Eco-Town doesn’t get the go ahead then the pressure to build will return here, to Aldingbourne.”

Cllr. Bower – “It is my understanding that there is a developer looking at this particular field here but there are other development sites around Aldingbourne and the Westergate area.”

BBC – “How likely is it that this would be developed.”

Cllr. Bower – “Well, I think there is a strong likelihood that it will be developed at some point in the future.”

See here for a full transcript of the BBC programme. Transcript of BBC Inside Out 24.09.08

What exactly did Councillor Bower mean when he said: “there is a strong likelihood that it will be developed at some point in the future”? (the LDF/Local Plan evidence base was in its very early stages).

The context of the BBC’s programme was one of community against community. Councillor Bower chose to introduce the LDF consultation response into the programme.

In doing so, he questioned (on national television) the motives of an entire community whose only “crime” was to be aware of the issues facing the district and to care enough to actively participate in both the Structure Plan and LDF public consultations. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to suggest a new settlement on brownfield land as an alternative to urban/village extensions on greenfield land?

Councillor Bower’s comments were insulting to the community in Aldingbourne and to all other communities that play an active part in public consultations.

Councillor Bower subsequently provided a full written apology for his comments to both Aldingbourne Parish Council and Cllr. Mrs Briggs. You can see the letters here.

Cllr. Bower statement to Aldingbourne Parish Council 16.11.08

Cllr Bower apology to Cllr Mrs Briggs 16.11.08

Cllr. Bower also resigned as Chairman of the LDF sub-committee because his impartiality was compromised – this was reported in the Bognor Observer on December 18th 2008. A spokeswoman for Arun District Council stated: “The Local development framework is a complicated process and the council must remain impartial at all times. Cllr. Bower’s decision to stand down is appropriate given the circumstances.”

The article can be seen here. Cllr Bower resigns – Bognor Observer 18.12.08

Councillor Bower was swiftly reinstated as Chairman of the LDF sub committee, as if nothing had happened, and continues in office as Cabinet Member for Planning – as a result the impartiality of the Council remains in question. 

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