St Neots Town Council meeting erupts in flared tempers and accusations of “time wasting”

St Neots

St Neots - Credit: Archant

An extra-ordinary St Neots Town Council meeting held to debate the St Neots Neighbourhood Plan erupted in flared tempers and accusations of “time wasting” last night (Wednesday).

At one point in the proceedings, council chairman James Corley was forced to call order, telling councillors he would not allow the meeting to “degenerate into a slanging match” after disagreements about the validity of the meeting and the wording of background notes.

The meeting, held in the Moot Hall of the Priory Centre, was called after several town councillors raised concerns that Huntingdonshire District Council has not yet announced a date for a public referendum on the Neighbourhood Plan, which would give members of the public an opportunity to approve the planning document before it is formally adopted.

As reported in this week’s Hunts Post, the plan needs to be approved and in place in order to attract Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) - money put forward by developers when they buy up land for building projects.

According to council chairman, James Corley, delays to the process could result in the town missing out on significant sums of cash as there are several large planning applications in the pipeline, including a new Lidl and Aldi store and thousands of new homes,

Cllr Corley said he had written to HDC several times to raise his concerns, but so far had not received a reply.

“We have some clear cut grievances here and in my opinion, HDC are dragging their feet.”

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Cllr Derek Giles described the delays as “unacceptable”.

“Why should the people of our town have to accept all these extra houses and not get the full wack of money that is due to them? We are running out of burial space and we need allotments. We need this extra money for our town,” he said.

Roger Harrison described the meeting as a “waste of tax payer’s money” and added:

“St Neots is the first town in the district to go through the process, we are the guinea pigs, so how can we speed up the process. No money has been lost due to any delays, as the CIL money is not paid until the construction stage.”

After much debate, the council voted in favour of four motions; to write to HDC to call a referendum within 55 days; to ask HDC to call extra-ordinary meetings to discuss neighbourhood plans; to seek assurances from HDC that St Neots has not lost out on any CIL money due to delays in approving the St Neots Neighbourhood Plan and make public its concerns about the delays and throw its weight behind Government plans to bring in legislation next year to ensure a more speedy process for the adoption of neighbourhood plans.