Paul Scott, one half of the Labour council tag team that is determinedly allowing the borough’s green spaces, kids’ playgrounds and nature reserves to be buried under a wave of ready-mix concrete, has dismissed out-of-hand complaints from residents that the planning committee is being conducted in an undemocratic and “underhand” manner.
Scott’s response to an email from a resident, in typical combative and unapologetic style, is reproduced in full below.
Scott is very well-rewarded for his role as a public servant.
An elected councillor for Woodside ward, as the cabinet member for planning he is in receipt of £45,000 per year in council allowances. Scott shares two homes in the borough with his wife, Alison Butler, the deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for housing (£48,000 in allowances).
According to one Katharine Street councillor colleague, the corruscating and bombastic tone of Scott’s response to a resident “is perfect proof, if it were needed, why Paul Scott is the best recruiting sergeant for the campaign for a directly-elected Mayor”.
The resident’s email, which has been shared with Inside Croydon, questioned Scott, the de facto chair of the planning committee, about the manner in which its meetings are being run. In the opinion of the Council Tax-payer, the Scott and the planning committee “are once again ignoring the fact that we live in a democracy”.
The New Addington resident wrote, “You are… contravening the findings of the recent Governance Review led by Dame Moria Gibb in which one of the recommendations was to ‘Make decision-making more open and transparent’.
“Underhand planning approvals do not fit into this category,” the resident added.
Since the coronavirus lockdown, the only meetings staged by the council in the past six weeks have been two “virtual” planning committees, in which only five of the usual 10 councillors were involved, and no members of the public were allowed to make objections on their own behalf.
“You are deliberately using the current lockdown crisis to push forward inappropriate schemes and make misleading judgements and statements,” the resident wrote.
“I refer in particular to the false and misleading biodiversity statement put forward by Brick by Brick in league with FAO Ecology Ltd, in connection to wildlife on Hutchinson’s Bank, New Addington.” You can read our report on the false statements submitted with the Brick by Brick planning application here.
“Fortunately,” the resident observed, “there are numerous intelligent, passionate and environmentally-aware individuals and organisations who understand far better than you, how inappropriate such a building scheme would be. Hopefully, you will see sense.”
And this is how the recruiting sergeant for DEMOC replied:
“You are raising some serious concerns.
“I am sure that we are all very much aware that we live in a democracy. Our planning system is part of the democratic system, with its rules and regulations laid down by parliament. But in the same way that we elect parliament and yet do not get a say in individual decisions that parliament makes, planning decisions are made by the elected members of the council on the planning committee. We do not for example have a referendum system for deciding planning applications as some people incorrectly believe. The planning committee makes its decisions based upon the evidence presented to it and the advice received. This particular application has not been considered by the committee yet.
“I hope you will take the now extended consultation period to let the local planning authority know what your concerns are about the application. I trust you will tell us what it is about this proposal next to the incredibly important Hutchinsons [sic] Bank that would make it so inappropriate? It is already bordered by a considerable number of existing homes. What do think is inaccurate in the ecology statement?
“I would be very interested to hear how exactly you think ‘underhand planning decisions’ are being made and in what actual ways do you think any advice from the recent governance review is being ‘contravened’? In what way do you think the current crisis is being used to make false and misleading statements?”
It is interesting that Scott feigns ignorance of such a widely discussed local issue, which has attracted objections from around the world about the threat to a globally renowned nature reserve. Either that, or he couldn’t care less about Hutchinson’s Bank.
Of course, under the current rules over the planning committee which Scott helped to push through, and with the lockdown still in force, no resident would be allowed to raise such concerns at Scott’s planning meetings, nor are the council-owned developers holding anything that can be recognised as a public consultation.
Suffice to say, after receiving Councillor Scott’s warm and charming missive, the Council Tax-payer did not feel any desire to engage with the elected representative any further.
- Click here for the listing of the sites Brick by Brick is bringing forward for the planning process even though the public is unable to consult because of the covid-19 lockdown.
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You are being very unfair to Paul Scott, very unfair indeed.
All he is doing, and very faithfully so, is sticking to the Council’s long-held mantra, the one in which it believes devoutly but will not publish.
This is simply: “Don’t bother to contact us. We won’t listen. It’s our policies that matter to us, not the people of the borough, the fools.”
It is important that we realise that we, the electorate, are only here to elect the councillors – after that it is up to them what they do with our money no matter how we feel about it.
Of course, there is a way and that is don’t vote for them again. But people do and they get what they vote for.
Paul Scott’s hubris is mind-boggling, worthy of the fascist dictatorships of the 1930’s.
How on earth can he claim that the Planning Committee decides on “EVIDENCE” when EVERY SINGLE BxB application is GRANTED. Has there never, ever been any evidence that they should not be granted? What a cavalier way to treat the public.
Scott should realise that he is there to serve on the Council, not to master it.
Councillor Paul Scott would do well to wind his neck in and read a document published by the Local Government Association called Probity in Planning – for Councillors and Officers. It describes how councillors, in making decisions on planning matters, on behalf of their communities, should do it in a fair, impartial and transparent way.
Scott – I refer you to the words “on behalf of their communities”.
And then I refer you to the words “fair… impartial and transparent…”. This is just the opening sentence of the document, and Scott fails every prerequisite.
The document goes on to say:
“Planning has a positive and proactive role to play in looking after important environmental areas. It balances environmental needs to achieve sustainable development.”
Of course, this doesn’t apply to Hutchinson’s Bank.
Scott is the embodiment of everything that is rotten about planning in this borough. Bring on the elected Mayor.
Scott is certainly the embodiment of everything that is rotten about planning in this borough and embodies the arrogant disregard the whole ruling elected council elite has for the public.
But, bring on the elected Mayor? I’m not so sure. Unless the office is established with firm, clear and well-organised counterbalancing controls, we could be jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Be careful for what you wish is not a bad warning.
Basically what we have now is effectively local dictatorship by a group. It would be easy for that to change, with an elected Mayor, into dictatorship by an individual.
Yes, we have a very unhealthy local dictatorship, particularly in planning, because Scott sees himself as some kind of warped Robin Hood character. How would you suggest we change this?
Tony Newman will not remove Scott because Scott is a paid-up member of his personal support group. Of course, if Newman had any opinions of his own on planning, he would change/temper what Scott’s doing. But unfortunately he doesn’t.
An elected Mayor will have a great deal more public exposure that Newman currently chooses to have. With that comes a higher degree of indirect accountability. He’ll be on far more public platforms and will be available for more public scrutiny. I can’t see a Mayor in this position, day after day, defending all the biased, dodgy, gerrymandering antics Scott gets up to on Planning. Because the public will not let it go and the new Mayor would have to defend Scott at every turn.
Given the extent Scott has skewered planning in Croydon, not even the Head of Housing would be that loyal to him.
All I am saying is that we need to be very careful about how and with what remit and control a directly elected Mayor is chosen. Hoping for a higher degree of indirect accountability is, I am afraid, a bit of a pipe dream. Politicians, all of them, ignore anything that does not immediately force them to change direction. That a lot of people feel cross will make many politicians sure that they are on the right path.
Yes, it will be in our local devolution deal. The Government believes the role ensures clear accountability over the powers, functions and funding that is devolved from national to local level.
But can you believe anything that this government says? It’s own reporting of the Covid-19 outbreak statistics makes you wonder if they actually know what the truth is!
Just like you Mr. Scott, let us keep it simple, you lot approved it, that’s sufficiently suspicious from the outset as there is NO HINT OF DEMOCRATIC process in any of your pre-determined Planning meetings.
Surely, if Mr Scott wants protesters to prove their point to him, directly, then they should do just that by writing to him, directly, with all the points already raised – dont just say we said so and so, or refer him to something, write it all down again and send it directly to him inviting an open to all reply!!
Why not see how many people will sign an open letter of protest as we so often see on the internet