March 10 2014 Latest news:
Story by: JOHN ELWORTHY
Thursday, February 13, 2014
The vice chairman of Fenland Council planning committee has resigned his post ahead of a hearing next week which will determine if he has broken the council’s code of conduct.
Councillor David Connor has also resigned his membership of the planning committee. I understand he has also asked to be removed from the licensing committee.
He will learn his fate when the council’s conduct committee meets on February 20 to consider a complaint “and determine the initial consideration”.
His position as a member of both Fenland district and Cambridgeshire councils are unaffected but he could face possible sanctions by the ruling Tory group at Fenland Hall if a complaint is upheld.
A report by Tom Lewis, principal solicitor and deputy monitoring officer, says the committee will be asked to determine if there is a “reasonable pospect” of the complaint being proven.
The investigation began following allegations by a neighbour, Diane Oswald, that Cllr Connor had “used his position” as vice chairman of the committee and as a county councillor to rally opponents against her bid to open a children’s nursery.
She argued that Cllr Connor’s action had resulted in a campaign being waged unfairly against her to fuel opposition to her proposals.
Earlier this month the committee approved her change of use of The Hermitage in Benwick Road, Doddington, for a children’s nursery and Cllr Connor stood down temporarily from the committee to speak against it.
The council has examined a vast amount of correspondence from Mrs Oswald, including a letter sent to her by Cllr Connor, and dozens of entries by the Doddington councillor on Twitter.
The conduct committee will hear an outline of the possible code of conduct breaches that may have been committed and these will be considered by the committee.
Included in the code is a requirement for councillors to “avoid organising support for or opposition to a planning matter to be determined by the district council”.
The committee will also be shown emails from this newspaper to the council’s chief executive Paul Medd querying whether lobbying of councillors had taken place and questioning threatened enforcement action against Mrs Oswald which was referred to in a letter signed by Cllr Connor over an unrelated matter.
Cllr Connor’s evidence to the conduct committee includes a statement that his letter to Mrs Oswald “was pleasant and not in any way threatening.” He said he had signed it accordingly as he was both “an FDC and CCC member voted in by the public which Mrs Oswald knows only too well as she posted her vote at Doddington village hall where I was on polling day.
“She also had two extremely large posters attached to her property in support of UKIP which she is fully entitled to do. I had no problem with this at all.”
He also claimed the application for change of use to a nursery next door “is seriously flawed. As residents we were not fully informed.”