Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Councillor Mark Cooper

My old friend... (or nemesis!)
Picture above reproduced from http://www3.hants.gov.uk/MarkCooper/aboutme.htm?memid=ymdemc
as over the next few months I plan to add some posts on
  • Political donations,
  • Romsey politics and the ethics and judgement of
  • Cllr. Mark Cooper- my one-time political opponent!
In the interim, I would merely advise Cllr Cooper that when in a glasshouses...
Copyright- Romsey Advertiser News
Tories refuse to hand back developer's donation

Councillor, Mark Cooper, (bid) to get Test Valley Borough Council to cut the reserve housing allocation for Abbotswood (off Romsey's Woodley Lane) from 800 to 500 have been defeated.
The first of those attempts came at a meeting of the Borough executive at Andover last Wednesday when it was lost by four votes to three.
And when he went back to Andover to renew his call at a meeting of the full council on Friday, he complained that nine of the Conservative councillors voting the new homes through were members of the Romsey Conservative Association which had received a "large cash donation" from one of the developers.

He also made a dramatic call for the money to be handed back to the Perbury Group, which donated it, and suggested that the cash had landed the nine with a financial interest which they should have declared, he suggested.
And he said at the Council meeting: "The public has a right to be concerned that developers are giving cash donations to a political party during the evolution of a Borough plan; a plan that has the task of fingering land for future housing development.
"If Tory councillors continue to back 800 at Abbotswood they are either ignorant of public opinion or arrogant enough to think it doesn't matter.
"If they back 500 it will show they are not influenced by the developer's contribution. Whatever number they vote for, it would be better for the reputation of the planning system and this council to return the cash in order to remove the collective bad taste in the mouth that this issue has created."
But in answer to his complaint, the council's legal officer, Susan Tovey, said declaring an interest was "entirely a matter for the individual councillor."
Now Cllr Cooper is considering making a complaint to the Standards Board.
He said after the meeting: "It was something I wanted to steer clear of, but I am being advised that I should consider lodging a complaint."
In making his initial call for the 300-house cut, at the executive meeting, Councillor Cooper said: "The Inspector who dealt with the Borough Plan said in his report that the Abbotswood site is one that is cherished by many local residents'. I urge the Executive to recognise the value that local residents place on this site.
"The Inspector admits that development, whether at 500 or at 800 dwellings, will harm the site but that such harm could be mitigated by landscaping and tree planting, particularly with the use of banking and substantial screening by way of tree buffers, by good design and attention to detail."
He was supported by Councillor Sally Leach who said that 800 dwellings could only be fitted on the site by achieving very high densities of between 40 and 45 per hectare. "Such densities are appropriate for brownfield sites in or near town centres but are hardly appropriate for an edge of town location," she said.
But Conservative Councillor Peter Boulton, who is the new environment and health Portfolio holder, said: "Eight hundred is the figure we have to go for. The developer will go for 800 even if we say 500."
Three Conservatives missed the vote on Abbotswood. Council Leader Ian Carr is away on a cruise, while deputy leader Martin Hatley and Mrs Caroline Nokes declared an interest and left the room.
On January 5 this year, Mrs Nokes, told the Council that her "fighting fund had received a large donation". The Test Valley interest book shows that Mrs Nokes had confirmed by e-mail that Romsey Conservative Association had received a donation from the Perbury Group.
Following last Friday's meeting, Romsey Conservative Association chairman, Alex Briggs, said: "Perbury Group made donation last December in response to the Chancellor's pre-budget report, which indicated higher taxation on development, specifically to fund the campaign for the next General Election.
"We are intending to use the money to assist the campaign of our parliamentary candidate Caroline Nokes, who declared the interest at the first available opportunity and has taken no part in discussions pertaining to this site since. It is a matter of public record that Caroline had prior to that point voted against housing development on this site."
10:05am Friday 9th June 2006
I am looking forward to writing about some of the issues the above article raises.


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