Councillor criticised over housing row
PUBLISHED: 09:00 28 April 2016
The deputy leader of North Somerset Council has been accused of acting ‘unlawfully’ by people who say he ‘manipulated’ Government rules by allowing hundreds of homes to be built to acquire money for the authority.
Villagers in Yatton made the claims against Cllr Elfan Ap Rees, who is also the council’s executive member for housing, at a meeting of Yatton Parish Council’s planning committee on Monday night.
Some 520 homes – which came to North Somerset’s planning committee as three different applications – will be built in the north end of Yatton in the coming years and villagers believe this is more than the area can accommodate.
In a letter to MP Liam Fox, which was read out by parish councillor Richard Westwood at Monday’s meeting, the parish council accused Cllr Ap Rees of approving the developments in Yatton to potentially gain funding for North Somerset.
Parish councillors then suggested Cllr Ap Rees would then spend this money on an additional motorway spur road at Clevedon in the future, to better connect areas in the north of the district, such as Yatton and Nailsea, to the motorway network.
Cllr Westwood said: “Elfan Ap Rees, in his role as executive member for housing, has manipulated the planning process to bring about the granting of planning applications for the unlawful reason of gaining funding for North Somerset Council.
“He seems to directly link the granting of the two most recent planning applications with securing funding for the council and whilst we are not suggesting any personal corruption, a responsible planning authority cannot be overseen to be granting planning permission in light of gaining funding for itself.
“If Yatton was getting all these houses after a thorough and impartial investigation and (the council) knew where the best places were for them, that would be hard, but acceptable.
“But to be told by the man who is in charge of planning that the houses are coming to Yatton in the chance of a motorway spur road at some point in the future beggars belief.”
Cllr Ap Rees rejected the claims and told the Mercury on Tuesday that money from the developments at North End would not cover the cost of any motorway improvements.
He said: “I would reject that (the claims) completely. I am absolutely not in a position to influence or manipulate the process.
“I am just one of 18 members of the committee – that is all I am. I do not have any additional powers.
“I am merely there as one member of the committee and my executive role does not feature in that particular scenario.
“Beyond that, I think in general, Yatton has been selected for a level of development because it is one of the service villages and from an executive position, obviously if we can acquire money from developers to improve the infrastructure, that is something I would, and do, support.
“This particular development will allow us to extend the cycle path route from Yatton Station in the general direction of Clevedon, but it certainly would not provide the funds for any motorway length.
“That would have to be a completely separate project, working with Highways England and Government funding to do anything to junction 20.”