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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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EXCLUSIVE: Henry Smith MP thanks Crawley for his re-election

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Speaking exclusively to Crawley News 24, newly re-elected MP Henry Smith has thanked residents of the town for their votes.

Henry also took a moment to answer some questions about the next steps.

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