Independent councillor who claims developers control NE Cambs Conservatives wins controversial appointment to planning committee

A CONTROVERSIAL independent councillor who claims developers control the ruling Conservative association in Fenland has been appointed to the 15-strong planning committee.

Cllr Mark Archer of Manea claimed last month that “planning has long been a party matter in Fenland. Developers control NE Cambs Conservative Association”.

He also told his followers on Twitter that “developers should not be allowed to act as councillors. End of! That’s parish, town or district”.

Now Cllr Archer finds himself as a fully fledged member of the planning committee following a surprise announcement by Council Leader Alan Melton.

Cllr Melton is gambling on weathering the political fall out from ‘supermarket-gate’ with the announcement today of a revamped planning committee that includes Cllr Archer –previously a substitute committee member- among a batch of new faces.

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Three of four new members elected to serve on the planning committee of Fenland District Council became members for the first time last year.

The four new members of the committee will be councillors Mike Cornwell, Will Sutton, David Hodgson and Mark Archer.

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A statement from Fenland Hall said the new members will join the committee with immediate effect.

“The leader and deputy leader have swept away the political balance requirement to give the committee transparency and a non-political bias,” said the statement.

“The use of substitutes will be available for all meetings and site visits to ensure a full committee at all times.

“All new and existing committee members (and substitutes) will be required to undertake full and on going training.”

The changes come about following the (ongoing) debacle at Whittlesey which resulted in conflicting approvals for two out of town superstores which flew in the face of the council’s own retail assessment.

Two key protagonists in those decisions – which have been rescinded and will return for fresh debate in the New Year, have been removed.

Councillor Jan French lost not only her committee role but also her �8,155 a year Cabinet position in charge of planning. Councillor Martin Curtis, the vice chairman, was also removed.

Cllr Melton also decided no Cabinet member should sit on the planning committee, thus removing Councillor David Oliver and Councillor Pete Murphy.

Cllr Sutton, who represents Christchurch and Elm, is a former farm manager who now works for a pre-cast concrete company whose hobbies include March Amateur Boxing Club.

Cllr Cornwell from March is a retired local government officer, having previously worked for Fenland Council.

Cllr Hodgson from Wisbech is past chairman of the Wisbech Business and Professional Men’s club and has coached table tennis in local schools.

Fourth member of the committee is the independent councillor for Manea, Cllr Archer from Manea, who beat the Tory councillor in 2007 to win the seat and held it last year. Ironically his opponent in 2007 was Robert Sears, a high profile Conservative Association official and the brother of Richard Sears, head of Harrier Developments, and closely involved with the Tesco store bid at Whittlesey.

Substitutes on the planning committee will be: Councillors Simon King, Mike Humphrey, Peter Tunley and Jonathan Farmer. Cllr Mrs Bucknor substitutes for Cllr Michael Bucknor.

It is expected that Councillor Phil Hatton will retain the chairmanship and that Councillor David Connor from Doddington will replace Cllr Curtis as vice chairman.

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