Cranleigh councillors reveal reasons for withdrawing from large housing development debate

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Councillors Brian Ellis and Stuart Stennett did not take part in the decision on the Knowle Park Initiative’s application to build 265 homes in the village

BY GEORGINA TOWNSHEND

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The site plan for a proposed housing scheme in Cranleigh by the Knowle Park InitiativeThe site plan for a proposed housing scheme in Cranleigh by the Knowle Park Initiative

Despite being one of the most important planning decisions Cranleigh has ever faced, two of its borough and parish councillors did not take part in the The Knowle Park Initiative (KPI) planning application decision.

The KPI application to build 265 homes in the village was rejected by 12 members of the Joint Planning Committee aginst seven in favour on Wednesday April 27.

Councillors Brian Ellis and Stewart Stennett, however, did not take part due to both declaring a pecuniary interest.

According to Cllr Ellis his was not a pecuniary interest, but one of prejudice.

“My interest declared at the recent JPC should have been stated as a non-pecuniary but prejudicial interest, and I have asked that this be corrected in the minutes of the meeting,” said Cllr Ellis.

“As chairman and on behalf of Cranleigh Parish Council, I negotiated and agreed the exchange of land between the KPI applicant and the council which ultimately provided Cranleigh Village Hospital Trust with land for the new village hospital and the council with the Bruce McKenzie Memorial Field, and I have touched base with the applicant from time to time since the land exchanged to see how the hospital was progressing.

“Advice from the deputy monitoring officer was that I should declare a non-pecuniary but prejudicial interest in the KPI application, which I did.

“Unfortunately the committee clerk mistakenly stated that my declared interest was pecuniary.”

A pecuniary interest relates to financial matters.

“Accountability, openness and honesty”
All councillors need to register their declarable interests and do so for ‘accountability, openness and honesty’.

Cllr Stennett said the reason for declaring a pecuniary interest was due to his company, Stennetts Ltd, and the applicant’s company previously trading together.

Despite both not taking part in the debate on Wednesday, both councillors attended meetings in September last year with developers, including representatives from KPI, as part of a scheme to tackle infrastructure problems in the village.

At the time, Cllr Ellis, who chaired the meeting said: “When I was chairman of the parish council some three years ago, we first launched the idea of taking a strategic approach to planning applications.

“Since then, it has become apparent that this will be critical to ensure that development in Cranleigh does not detract from the character we all love about our village.”

A spokesman for Waverley Borough Council said: “A pecuniary interest was declared on Cllr Ellis’s behalf at the meeting and he left for the duration of the item.

“However, Cllr Ellis has advised the council that his intention was not to declare a pecuniary interest but to declare a non-pecuniary interest which he considered to have sufficient weight that he needed to exclude himself from consideration of the item.

“Cllr Ellis will move an amendment to clarify his interest at the next JPC meeting on 16 May 2016.

“This is stated on the agenda which will be published on Friday May 6 2016.”

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