Friday, January 18, 2013

Full Council part 3 - clearing up the Manydown mess

For those who have had the good sense to not follow the Manydown thing here's the history.

1996 - Council looks into purchasing a large piece of land (Manydown) to the west of Basingstoke with the proceeds from the sale of Council houses.  

Council, with the County Council buy it to allow a well planned extension to Basingstoke to house future generations with the Manydown estate as a beneficiary in exchange for selling the land.

The Tories, then in opposition, oppose the development to the West of town and make it a central part of their campaigning. (except in the East of town where they are campaigning against development there)

2006 The Tories retake control of the Council and announce that they will no longer be promoting Manydown for development until after the next local plan is completed.

2011 and sites are being selected for the local plan - Manydown is excluded on the basis it is not available and lots of sites to the East of town are selected instead.

The Manydown Company, who entered into an agreement with the Council all those years ago took the Council to Court see here.

Councillors wanted to know how we got into this mess and Ernst and Young are commissioned to investigate.

Ernst and Young report back, with some legal advice missing.  Council get the legal advice, not all the questions are answered and then......finally......on the 13th December, despite much consensus about what we do with the report we needed to debate whether the Council wanted these unanswered questions answered.

The Tories (mostly) said no, we've spent enough and it felt like the opposition wanted to keeping asking questions until they hear the answer they wanted.

Opposition Councillors wanted questions answered for perhaps different reasons.  I felt some were after blood, resignations and damaged reputations.  I wanted the questions answered for the opposite reason - to clear names.    

The Tories got things horribly wrong because they had a majority, they didn't have scrutiny and most importantly they knew they were wrong.  If they had tried to argue Manydown had more constraints than other sites and should not be developed, they knew they'd lose the debate.  Instead they tried to stop that debate taking place. 

Having used public funds to purchase land for housing, you couldn't exclude it from a debate about housing.  It was a political cock up not a corruption cover up.  

The integrity of those who have dedicated so much to the borough should not be left in question, we should clear their)

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