EXCLUSIVE: U-turn by committee chairman as he offers fresh vote on controversial ‘supermarket-gate’ meeting

FACED with mounting criticism Fenland planning committee chairman Phil Hatton stunned colleagues by ordering a second vote on where to stage the January meeting to debate the Whittlesey supermarket issue.

In a weekend of high drama, Cllr Hatton offered an olive branch to his critics less than 24 hours after insisting the meeting would be held in Wisbech St Mary and not Whittlesey or Fenland Hall, March.

Cllr Hatton told me at lunchtime on Saturday that it is “obvious some committee members are not happy with the decision I made”.

He said an emergency planning committee would be convened immediately after this Thursday’s full council meeting to re-consider the decision.

“I still stand by my original decision believing it to be the right one, but let the committee decide,” he said.

Cllr Hatton had faced a barrage of criticism over the decision to move the January meeting to Wisbech St Mary.

I understand newly appointed Whittlesey district councillor Gary Swan was among those to complain about the switched venue. The tone of his email to chief executive Paul Medd was said to be “blunt”.

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Independent councillor and planning committee member Michael Bucknor said the decision to hold the meeting in Wisbech St Mary was “flawed”.

In a furious email to Cllr Hatton he said last week’s decision by the planning committee was doing no more than rubber stamping a decision already made by Cabinet to hold the meeting in Wisbech St Mary.

“It was made quite clear by you at the ad hoc meeting that Cabinet had already made the decision to have the meeting in Wisbech St Mary rather than Whittlesey; this caused some strong objections from some members of the committee,” he said.

“It was put forward that Cabinet did not have the authority to make a unilateral decision as to where the meeting will be held. I want to make it quite clear I am not comfortable with this matter.”

Earlier Cllr Hatton had asked this paper to “make it clear to Whittlesey residents that one of the main reasons for not coming to Whittlesey is down to one of their own councillors”, a reference to Councillor Martin Curtis.

Planning committee member Councillor Dave Patrick said it was ridiculous to say the committee had a free vote on the matter- it had been made clear Cabinet had decided the change of venue.

“I feel that the decision to hold the meeting at Wisbech St Mary and not Whittlesey is flawed and shows flagrant disrespect to many of the people of Whittlesey to whom this is such a very emotive and such important issue,” he said.

“I have decided not to sit on the next meeting as I feel our integrity on this matter has been seriously flawed given the previous meetings and there outcome. I believe that what ever the result of the next meeting is that Legal action will be taken by one of the parties concerned leaving the Council tax payer of Fenland with an extremely large bill that will more than likely run into hundreds of Thousands.

“With remarks by the Vice Chairman that maybe Cllr Mark Archer and myself were possibly vote catching. I am not a Whittlesey councillor and have nothing to fear or gain.

“To accuse Cllr Martin Curtis as being the reason for not holding the meeting in Whittlesey I find seriously disturbing. It is something that maybe needs looking into by the conduct committee.

“We are elected by the people to serve them and should do everything possible to involve them in this process and not hinder them by moving the process to a place that may make it difficult for those people who wish to attend. One word that seems to have been forgotten is LOCALISM.”

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