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‘He has to go’ – calls for resignation of Vice-Chair of Crawley council’s planning committee after comments made during Full Council

The Leader of Crawley Borough Council’s opposition Conservative Group is calling for the removal of the Vice-Chairman of Crawley Borough Council’s Planning Committee from the committee, following what he describes as ‘appalling’ comments at last week’s Full Council meeting at Crawley Town Hall.

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Cllr McAleney is Vice-Chairman of Crawley Borough Council Planning Committee.

The issue is around a response that Planning Committee Vice-Chairman Cllr Tom McAleney gave during a debate after some criticism was raised from the Conservatives over the refusal for retrospective planning to Metrobank.

Councillors had highlighted in debate that the Planning Committee had taken a different view when the Council built the Crawley Museum not in accordance with it’s planning permission, with its windows not meeting the specification. The Planning Committee allowed that subsequent retrospective planning application but not that for Metrobank in similar circumstances.

Read the Metrobank story here

Leader of the Opposition Cllr Duncan Crow said:

“Cllr McAleney response was – ‘Of course we treat planning applications from the Council differently from those of multi-national corporations.’

The Conservative Group view Cllr McAleney’s appalling public comment as extremely serious and his position as Planning Committee Vice-Chairman is now untenable.

He has to go because he has publicly stated that his judgement on planning applications is determined by who an applicant happens to be, rather than merits only on planning grounds.

He also said “we” as though he was speaking for other Labour members of the committee who voted to refuse the Metrobank application. 

This means that no one who submits a planning application or indeed the public, can have any confidence whatsoever that Cllr McAleney is acting impartially and solely on planning grounds, as required in planning law. This now leaves the Council very open to planning appeals at great expense to Crawley Council Tax payers.”

Cllr Crow added:

“What needs to happen is that the Council’s Labour Leader, Cllr Peter Lamb, needs to show some leadership and remove Cllr McAleney from the Planning Committee but Cllr McAleney himself should still resign as Vice-Chairman by way of an apology.

It shows Labour’s folly that I warned about at the previous Full Council meeting, of appointing brand new and inexperienced Councillors to positions of responsibility and ignoring those better qualified and experienced Councillors, just because they happen to be Conservatives.” 

But in reponse to the demands from the Conservative leader, the leader of Crawley Borough Council Peter Lamb appeared to just shrug off the call saying:

“I believe Cllr McAleneys comments have been taken out of context.

The simple fact is when you look at the history of the planning committee, members have rejected Crawley Borough Council applications in the past and no doubt will continue to do so in the future when they believe it fails on its planning merits.”

In response to the news Cllr McAleney said:

“The statement I made at the meeting was ‘I do not fear a precedent of the council having a slight degree more flexibility than multi-national corporations’. I find it interesting that in seeking to make this a political story Cllr Crow provided two different quotes to Crawley News 24 and a different journalist who attended the meeting.

Under current law, all applications must be treated equally regardless of whether or not they are for publicly owned buildings. I would not object to a change in the law, however this does not impair my ability to evaluate applications under current regulations.

The Conservatives raised a specific Council application relating to Crawley Museum which the committee considered, agreeing to minor amendments after material changes in circumstance were shown which Cllr Crow and Metrobank failed to do. The scale is entirely different to that of Metrobank and the way the corporation has acted with Planning.

This is another occasion where Cllr Crow has sought to politicise a non-political body and failed to be accurate on detail. It’s time he stood down to allow one of his more competent colleagues, such as Cllr Francis Guidera, to effectively lead the opposition.

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Crawley College to reopen following incident

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Crawley College will be beginning a phased reopening to students from tomorrow, Thursday 29 April.

The phased reopening will take place between tomorrow and Tuesday 4 May with full details by courses provided on the college website www.crawley.ac.uk . Students should check details before returning to campus.

The campus has remained closed for the past two days following police investigations into the incident that took place at the college on Monday (26 April).

Vicki Illingworth, Principal of Crawley College, said:

“We are looking forward to welcoming our students and staff back to the college.

“We’d like to reassure everyone, the college is safe and they will be well supported in their return to the campus.

“Sussex Police have confirmed that this is being treated as an isolated incident which is not terror related and nobody else is being sought in connection with the incident.  The individual concerned is in police custody and has been charged.”

“We are now focussed on ensuring we can bring students and staff safely back on site. We’re proud of the service we provide to our students to give them opportunities in education and training.

“I can reassure everyone that this was a one-off incident and we have strategies in place to keep everyone as safe as possible, as well as giving the students the support they need to come back and join us to complete their studies successfully.”

Vicki also echoed her earlier comments, paying tribute to the staff who supported students who were on site during the events of Monday afternoon.

She added:

“I continue to remain full of admiration of our team. They pulled together on Monday and implemented all of the protocols we have in place to keep students safe.

“They’ve continued to work together to support each other and their students over the past couple of days – and they will continue to do so when students return to campus.

“We are also particularly proud of the two members of staff who acted so bravely and swiftly to apprehend the individual before the police arrived. They acted selflessly to protect their students and the college community. They have asked for privacy during this time.

“It was a very intense time for everyone involved.

“The students who were kept inside the college and who were part of the emergency evacuation were supported throughout by our staff and counselling services have been available to them this week. These services will continue to be in place for them to access.

“We’ve continued to be in touch with our students through our support services to check that they are ok and we will resume face-to-face counselling as soon as we can.”

Work is taking place at the college campus to repair some damage which was sustained during the evacuation and subsequent investigations, with teams working hard to ensure the campus is ready for reopening.

The college would like to thank students, staff, the Police and Emergency Services and the wider community for their ongoing support and understanding.

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