The recent high temperature debate regarding TDC's conduct of the Local Plan has now become absurd with the publication of a supposed "independent review" of the conduct of the work. Of course the review was not really independent, not comprehensive and was far from reassuring; I am considering investigating whether the rules of the Council were broken. The "review" merely reflects the Council's insecurity regarding the handling of the Local Plan, its disregard for its own processes, its knee-jerk responses to what is usually constructive criticism and the demonisation of the Oxted and Limpsfield Residents Group.
As the official Leader of the Opposition and a member of the Planning Policy Committee it is not appropriate for me to read about this "review" in a press release or on Facebook. The Council has a process for scrutinising its own work and this has not been followed.
The Council knows that the release of more sites in December has caused much disquiet which it has not sought to assuage, as it is not clear how the consultation on these will take place. The Council is also not carefully enough managing the conflict it has through its own wish to develop a number of the sites it owns.
I recognise that the process is stressful for council officers; that stress would be diminished, in my view, if the Council were more reflective, and did not seek to demonise OLRG or consider them the enemy; they are not, any more than I and my Group are. We all want a robust Local Plan which delivers legal requirements but defends the community. The Council has spent too much time and energy delivering a flawed, and constantly changing, government agenda at the expense of meeting one of its core purposes- protecting our communities and putting their interests first.
A balance has to be struck which delivers what is required but is transparent, takes a non-partisan stance on decision making, and which truly has a view of the Local Plan which is independent of the Council's desire to build and deliver income; I have repeatedly counselled that this separation is not clear enough and that is a major source of the anxiety.
One of the duties of the Council is to deliver a robust Local Plan; another is to defend and protect our communities. My concern is that, with the goal posts constantly changing, it is doing neither.
Cllr Chris Botten
Leader of the TDC Liberal Democrat Group