Havering councillors argue their rights in debate over Hare Lodge demolition appeal
PUBLISHED: 09:30 26 January 2018
A Havering Council debate about the demolition of a beloved period building saw councillors question how much information should be revealed to the public regarding planning inspector’s decisions.
The decade-long battle to keep Hare Lodge, in Upper Brentwood Road, Gidea Park, includes four appeals to the planning inspector, all of which have been denied.
Most of the councillors at the full council meeting on Wednesday, January 24, seemed to be in agreement about their dismay at the approved appeal to demolish Hare Lodge.
However, debate ensued about whether the executive members of the council were required to reveal the external legal expertise they had received, and on which the decision was based.
The Conservative group provided an amendment to the motion, explaining it was following specialist legal advice that a judicial review of the planning inspector’s decision was unlikely to be successful.
Cllr Damian White, cabinet member for housing, said: “I think it’s a shame. Hare Lodge is a wonderful building and it’s those special type of character places that we should preserve, but Havering is not an island.
“We are governed by rule of law which means that when the appeal was released by the planning inspector, they decided we must follow the rule.
However, some councillors felt it was still their right to know what advice been had provided.
Cllr Michael Deon Burton said: “I refuse to accept this announcement.
“I think it is a very slippery slope to keep members from viewing this information.
“I will fight tooth and nail for any member’s rights.”
Leader of the council, Cllr Roger Ramsey, closed the debate by emphasising his regret over the decision.
He said: “I fear that the Independent Residents Group are trying to adopt a very sad story for political advantage.
“If there is a justifiable case for a judicial review make no mistake we will take it, cost is not necessarily a factor.
“Case law is quite clear so if they want to pursue, he should try and get changing the law.”
At this point, the legal advisor who provided the expert opinion on whether to proceed with appealing the planning inspector’s decision joined the debate.
She said: “Members have access to information where they have a need to know it, and that is established by case law.”
The Conservative amendment was passed by councillors with a vote of 30 against 14, with eight people not voting.