Dear HSRA Members
I wrote to you before the Town Council met to consider what action to take over trumped up charges against two Haslemere South Ward councillors, Nikki Barton and Kirsten Ellis. I am totally shocked and extremely angry at the outcome of the council’s so-called process. The decision to bar Nikki Barton from any meetings of the Planning Committee and any meetings related to the Neighbourhood Plan is outrageous and was orchestrated by a collection of Conservative councillors who have spent the last three years supporting the development of large housing estates on protected countryside at Red Court and Longdene.
What is worse, is that the Mayor and a group of councillors seem to have succumbed to the bullying pressure by the developer and, in turn, decided to bully our local councillors, seeking to apply the most disproportionate sanctions on them. The so-called breaches seemed inadvertent given the unclear rules to do with registration of memberships of organisations like HSRA and the National Trust that are not political parties but include in their activities the desire to help protect the countryside – how many other councillors have fallen short of these technical requirements? At least one of the councillors: our own ward’s Simon Dear who called for the ban, but had himself failed to register his own financial interests for several years, a much worse breach to be honest.
You may have seen in the Haslemere Herald’s letter page over the past couple of weeks (copies of letters attached) the outrage of several members of the public at the way the council has conducted itself on this. I asked Councillor Barton for her view of the situation and this is what she said:
“First of all, let me say that if I failed to register my membership of HSRA and the National Trust, it was totally inadvertent. To be honest, the rules were not clear and the meeting where the issue arose was not a planning meeting about Red Court, but a meeting on the whole town’s Neighbourhood Plan where nobody declared any interests. However, what is incredible is how my independent approach to standing up for the community has been a red rag to a bull. Neither the property developer nor an influential group of Conservative councillors could help themselves coming after me in what might even have been a coordinated two-pronged attack so that their plans to build houses (or to allow them to be built) on protected countryside at Red Court and at Longdene could happen.
Just to be clear, the developer has successfully got Waverley, as the planning authority, to spend thousands on a three year investigation culminating in removing me from the meeting to consider their plans to build 200 houses on ALGV and AONB – does that sound the right outcome for being a member of HSRA at the time, something I never hid?!
I have always maintained my independence. So of course in 2018 I rejected the developer’s cynical attempts (including an offer of land) to try and persuade me as a councillor to promote his housing estate plans. I have no idea what he did to persuade two Conservative councillors to move the Settlement Boundary before he bought the land at Red Court; nor what he did to persuade our own Haslemere South councillor Simon Dear to repeatedly back his plans, ignoring over 530 public objections (most from Haslemere residents); nor what he did to persuade 2 other Haslemere residents to join him in harassing me and complaining against me when I voted for a Neighbourhood Plan that kept the Settlement Boundary where it was; nor what he did to persuade two councillors and the Mayor to convene an Extraordinary Council Meeting in order to ban me from Planning Committee meetings the day before the Planning Committee was due to review plans to increase the Red Court scheme to nearly 200 houses.
Whatever the outcome of the pending judicial review of the decision to ban me from the Planning Committee (which was taken with total disregard for the council’s own procedures), I am keen that my local constituents understand obvious concerns surrounding the developer who is currently applying to extend his plans for up to 200 houses on protected countryside from Red Court to the Midhurst Road. This is a developer who apparently will stop at nothing in order to push through his plans. Since the beginning of the vexatious complaint brought against me, which was made by the developer’s lawyers, he has been trying everything he can. His property agents tried to use the complaint as an argument for their planning appeal last year. His lawyers even wrote threatening legal letters to the council before the Extraordinary Council Meeting and the next day’s Planning Committee… all designed purely and simply to exclude me and Councillor Ellis from being in the room when his planning application was due to be considered. That the council has countenanced this type of intervention in the proper functioning of the democratic bodies set up to represent you the constituents, is gravely worrying.”
If you are as outraged by this as I am, then I strongly urge you to write to object to the expansion plans of the developer, Redwood (South West) Ltd, to build another ~150 houses on top of the 50 already approved at Red court. Go to Waverley WA/2022/01887. Your objections need to be submitted by October 30th.