Opposition Maidenhead councillor questions last minute change of planning panel

An opposition councillor has raised concerns over a last-minute change of members sitting on the Maidenhead planning panel last week.

Councillor John Baldwin (Lib Dem, Belmont) has written a letter to the Advertiser in which he claims that upon arriving for the pre-meeting briefing, three Conservative councillors from outside Maidenhead were in attendance, despite not being eligible.

He says that he questioned this with council officers, and after consultation with legal representatives, the trio of Tory members left the meeting.

Upon the start of the meeting, Cllr Andrew Johnson (Con, Hurley and Walthams), Gerry Clark (Con, Bisham and Cookham) and Donna Stimson (Con, St Mary’s) were then seen representing the Conservatives on the panel.

The issue angered councillors Baldwin and Geoff Hill (TBF, Oldfield), with the latter calling for his ‘poorly briefed’ Conservative colleagues to leave, adding it was ‘morally wrong’ they were there.

The meeting continued, with chairman Cllr Phil Haseler (Con, Cox Green) telling members that the monitoring officer had approved the panel.

But the mood failed to brighten as a major application to build 80 new homes in Ray Mill Road East, Maidenhead, were withdrawn at late notice.

The developer - CALA Homes - told the Advertiser earlier this week that it would not be providing a comment at this time over why the plans were pulled. 

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Haseler said that as chairman he has no say on who sits on the panels, but was happy the meeting went ahead legally.

“If Cllr Baldwin has got an issue with a breach of the constitution, then he needs to file that with the monitoring officer,” Cllr Haseler said.

“The bottom line is that the monitoring officer gives the legal advice and approved the panel to go ahead.

“All members sitting on the planning committee represent the local planning authority, not their wards or political grouping.

“It is a huge shame that Cllr Baldwin has stooped as low to make it into a political issue.”

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