Shropshire parish councillor resigns after his legal advice ‘ignored’
A parish councillor from near Bridgnorth has resigned – claiming the council is acting ‘unlawfully’ over plans for hundreds of homes.
Mike Kendrick handed in his resignation to Worfield Parish Council having spent more than £2,000 on legal advice for fellow councillors, which he said was ignored by all but one.
He said the views of residents in and around the area are not being represented in relation to plans to build hundreds of homes and a large employment site on greenbelt land in Stanmore.
He said the parish council has instead been ‘putting off’ representing parishioners for months to a point where they will not influence Shropshire Council’s Local Plan Review.
The issue centres on rules of pre-determination, which means a decision-making council must not appear to have shown bias when making an official decision.
But Mr Kendrick argues that with no final decisions to make, Worfield Parish Council should be collating the views of residents and engaging in the consultation process in the public’s interest.
A solicitor’s letter, provided by Mr Kendrick, says: “There is no risk that the views expressed by Worfield PC would be seen as predetermining any views on later planning applications. Worfield PC is not the decision maker.”
Mr Kendrick said: "I'm so astonished and completely appalled and frustrated that the council has got it so wrong, even after I provided every member with a copy of the legal advice I sought.
"I feel desperately sad for the residents and I'm not prepared to behave in a manner which is blatantly wrong, for my own personal integrity."
A letter of legal advice written by Simon Kelly, of Richard Buxton Environmental, Planning & Public Law Solicitors, said the council is being "counter-productive" and could "deprive the Worfield community of its voice in the consultation process".
It adds: "There is no risk that the views expressed by Worfield PC in respect of the emerging policies would be seen as predetermining any views on later planning applications.
"Worfield PC is not the decision maker, therefore there cannot be any risk of 'pre-determination' in the legal sense."
Mr Kendrick, who was recently inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame following a nomination from Richard Branson, told the council in his resignation letter that the "unwillingness to comprehend the basic tenets of a Parish Council's duty is shocking".
He said advice given to members of the parish council in a proposed Local Plan position statement drafted by the clerk, Valerie Edwards, was in direct conflict with how the council should be acting.
The letter added: "The clerk's proposed position statement says that, at the pre-submission stage we, 'will be able to make an informed comment in light of having been kept appraised of the aspirations of the developers'.
"Parish councils should not be making comments based on the agenda of site promoters; they should be interrogating the justifications and evidence provided by Shropshire Council and listening to residents. This is laid out very clearly in the legal advice."
Parish council clerk Valerie Edwards declined to comment.
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