Independent Investigation over Secret Meetings with Developer Over Stratford Core Startegy

As this blog has said for years this stinker of a plan was dreamt up over a metaphorical G&T in Stratford Conservative Club.  Now that the  part of thew rival scheme in the adjoining district has permission lets hope its death is swift.

Stratford Herald

AN independent investigation has been ordered by Stratford District Council’s chief legal officer into meetings between the authority’s political leader and a well-known local property developer.

The inquiry has been triggered by the results of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests about meetings between Cllr Chris Saint (Cons Tredington), leader of Stratford District Council, and developer Tony Bird.

The FOI requests were prompted by the surprise emergence of plans for a new settlement of 3,000 homes, initially 4,800, at Gaydon and Lighthorne Heath (GLH) in the district council’s core planning strategy over the next 17 years.

The housing figures were massively reduced when it became apparent that they clashed with the expansion plans of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR).

In May this year members of Stratford District Council voted overwhelmingly in favour of the GLH scheme and rejected alternative proposals for a 3,500-home new settlement on Long Marston Airfield, which would have included a relief road.

Until summer of last year the ruling Conservatives on the district council had been pursuing a policy of dispersal of new housing and had repeatedly rejected suggestions from the opposition Liberal Democrats that the authority could largely meet its requirements by establishing a new settlement in the district.

In July last year, what appeared to be a ready-made GLH scheme hit the public like a bolt from the blue. It swiftly emerged it had been in preparation for 18 months to two years.

The Bird Group of Stratford is a co-proposer of the GLH scheme and it’s been revealed from the FOI requests by Chesterton and Kingston Parish Meeting that Cllr Saint is said to have had several meetings with Mr Bird, chairman of the group, that had previously been undisclosed.

The first of these meetings is said to have been in August 2012 at which no-one apart from Cllr Saint and Mr Bird were present.

A total of six meetings are said to have occurred between August 2012 and June 2013. Only four of these were attended by officials from the district council; the others involved only Cllr Saint and Mr Bird. Further FOI requests also suggest that throughout the whole core strategy process Mr Bird was the only developer with whom Cllr Saint had meetings.

Mr Bird is involved with Stratford Conservative Association, and Stratford District Council has been run by the Conservatives for the past 14 years.

When the GLH scheme first emerged last year there were allegations of “Tory cronyism” in a national newspaper, strenuously denied by Cllr Saint and Mr Bird.

The complaints, which an independent investigator has now been asked to look into, concern allegations of favouritism, partiality, bias and secrecy.

Today (Tuesday) a Stratford District Council spokeswoman said: “Complaints about any councillor are treated in confidence until the outcome has been confirmed. The council treats code of conduct issues on a confidential basis, ensuring fairness to both parties. No further comment will be made on the subject.”

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