Listening to communities could save HDC money

ANOTHER local community has won the right to apply for Judicial Review, and a local Conservative-controlled council has once again been told by a judge that it has a case to answer in court for its actions.

This time Houghton Parish Council may also have made legal history in that it has been awarded a Protective Cost Order to bring the case.

There are parallels to be drawn here with St Ives Corn Exchange. This case involves some of the very same Conservative district councillors who were in charge of St Ives Town Council, and who were told by a judge that their response to the community appeal not to sell the Corn Exchange was “highly unimpressive”. This time the judge says Houghton’s application for Judicial Review is in the public interest of both Houghton and St Ives.

Houghton Parish Council and SHED (Stop Houghton East Development) wish to preserve the green space between Houghton and St Ives and have been seeking a dialogue with Huntingdonshire District Council. As in the case of St Ives Corn Exchange a community has once again been forced into legal action by Conservative councillors whose judgement is obviously flawed. In the Houghton case people were refused permission to speak at planning meetings, and the ruling Tories on the cabinet overruled the view of their own overview and scrutiny panel and rode roughshod over the wishes of the community.

HDC leader Councillor Jason Ablewhite told a recent St Ives Town Council meeting that one of the reasons for the 3.5 per cent increase in HDC Council Tax is because of increased planning costs due to challenges to planning decisions. The former St Ives Town Council spent �25,000 in legal costs fighting the challenge by Action Corn Exchange. Heaven knows how much has been spent already by HDC on its barrister to fight Houghton Parish Council and SHED.

Perhaps if local Tories learned to listen to their communities they could avoid expensive appeals and litigation. Or perhaps we need a new breed of district councillor? JANICE DOBSON

Rookery Close

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