Councillor sacked last year as planning chairman in wake of ‘supermarketgate’ quits Fenland Council - by election likely

Cllr Phil Hatton at a supermarket planning meeting, Manor Leisure Centre Whittlesey.

Cllr Phil Hatton at a supermarket planning meeting, Manor Leisure Centre Whittlesey. - Credit: Archant

The councillor sacked as chairman of Fenland Council planning committee in the aftermath of ‘supermarketgate’ last year has suddenly quit a year ahead of next year’s elections.

Phil Hatton with Ian Hunt, former legal chief at Fenland Hall

Phil Hatton with Ian Hunt, former legal chief at Fenland Hall - Credit: Archant

Phil Hatton said he was standing down with immediate effect to concentrate on his booming health care business and to devote more time to his boat.

Supermarket Planning meeting, Manor leisure centre Whittlesey.

Supermarket Planning meeting, Manor leisure centre Whittlesey. - Credit: Archant

“We have a lovely boat and last year I only managed to use it three or four times,” he said. “This year I intend to use it a lot more.”

Cllr Hatton said the last straw for him came, ironically, during a selection meeting for the ward he has held for the Tories in Wisbech for 10 years.

“What really annoyed me was the selection process last Tuesday, something that is happening in every ward,” he said. “Chris Seaton and Michael Humphrey were also up for re-adoption for two of the three seats and asked me along. However it seems that despite being the ward councillor I live just over the boundary and was banned from attending and therefore not entitled to vote. I told them to stick it.”

He said both Cllr Seaton and Cllr Humphrey were re-adopted by “the narrowest of votes- it seems they could easily have been kicked out by new candidates managing to get their supporters and friends in the room”.

Cllr Hatton has formally tendered his resignation both to council leader Alan Melton and to the council who will now wait for a by election to be called.

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The Roman Bank councillor, now 65, was planning committee chairman during the early stage of ’supermarketgate’, the vote over whether Sainsbury’s or Tesco would get consent for a new store in Whittlesey.

At the height of the debate he was removed as chairman but declined an invitation from Cllr Melton to join his cabinet.

“I’m not really bitter about losing the chairmanship of the planning committee but the way it was done was not good,” he said. “One day the leader said I looked ‘tired’ and he was therefore removing me as chairman; next day almost he was offering me a post in his cabinet.”

Cllr Hatton said the main reason for standing down now was to concentrate on Sunshine Home Care, the company started by his wife seven years and which now employs 60 people and provides care to a growing number of people.

“Business is very good but unfortunately one of the ladies that use to do our finance and payroll has moved on and we are not replacing her,” he said. “So there is much to do.”

Cllr Hatton said he did consider staying on as an independent councillor for the next year but decided against it.

“The electorate voted for me as a Conservative so it would not be fair to stay on as an independent,” he added.

Cllr Hatton joined Walpole Fruit Packers in 1972 and later became the company’s distribution manager. Later he set up The Test and Service Centre in Wisbech.

Council leader Alan Melton said he was “very sorry” to learn of Cllr Hatton’s resignation.

“He has been an excellent councillor and I am very sorry he is leaving. I had hoped he would have been able to see out a final year but I would like to thank him for all he has done for Wisbech and for Fenland.”

Elsewhere in Wisbech the Conservatives have chosen town councillor Steve Tierney as a candidate should there be a by election on the county council if UKIP councillor Peter Lagoda is forced to stand down following his upcoming sentencing on a benefits charge.

And Cllr Tierney will also stand as a replacement for Conservative councillor Jonathan Farmer should he be forced to stand down following his court appearance next month for possession of a firearm.