Tuesday, 3 October 2006

Eric Empson calls for an end to political bickering over the Coatham Links development

Liberal Democrat Councillor, Eric Empson, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning, Development and Infrastructure has sent an open letter to local MP for Redcar, Vera Baird QC, calling for her to display real political leadership in ensuring a fair and open determination of the planning application for the Coatham Links development.

Councillor Empson, who is also Chairman of the Cabinet, said: "I have sent the letter in response to my increasing concerns that party politics are jeopardising the determination of the planning application for the development at Coatham Links.

"It does not help when the Labour Group switch sides only four days after the very same members voted publicly to support the scheme at a recent meeting of the Joint Strategy Committee."

In the letter, Councillor Empson openly challenges Ms Baird's recent support for the protesters against the development of housing and leisure facilities at Redcar and for their call for a Public Inquiry into the current planning application, suggesting the Council should itself call for an Inquiry.

He sets out: "As a lawyer with planning experience you know we cannot do this.

"Firstly, it is a matter for the Planning Committee acting independently and the Cabinet cannot take such a decision.

"Secondly, we cannot predict with any certainty what decision the Planning Committee will take. If they are minded to refuse then there is no point in an inquiry If they are minded to grant permission then it goes to Government Office for a decision on whether to hold an inquiry.

"It would be absurd for the Planning Committee to say we are minded to approve but by the way hold an Inquiry anyway because we need some political public relations.

"I am fully aware of the political motivation of much of the activity surrounding the proposed development at Coatham Links.

"It is in the interests of opposition party members to delay the decision on the proposed development - even when they support it in principle. Much of the public argument and scare-mongering surrounding the proposed development on Coatham Links is generated by these interests.

"I am now publicly asking for VeraBaird MP to put a stop to the party political wrangling and support local councillors in determining the planning application in a right and proper manner.

"The present scheme is the only show in town for the next five years that can bring real regeneration to Redcar. It should not be thrown away just to score party political points. The decision should be made on solid grounds, not on an unfounded assertion that the Council may not have the money it says it has.

"We might not be in this position if Vera Baird had not refused to speak to leading Council members for the past twelve months.

"We all owe this opportunity to bring about a fair and open debate to the residents who elected us to represent them and we owe it to the future regeneration of Redcar".

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