RUGBY’S council leader has defended himself against Private Eye accusations of a conflict of interest between his work for estate agents Horts and a planning application to build 80 homes in Wolston.
The satirical magazine also said Cllr Craig Humphrey had “sacked” Cllr Chris Pacey-Day from the borough’s planning committee due to his vote against the application. In response, Cllr Humphrey said his actions were motivated purely to prevent the borough being liable for tens of thousands of pounds in legal costs should it lose a planning appeal and public inquiry into the matter. Cllr Humphrey explained the reasons given by planning committee were not valid under planning law, and for that reason the borough “would not have a leg to stand on,” before a Government planning inspector. The council leader also said Cllr Pacey-Day had not been the only member of planning to have been spoken to and that he had only been removed temporarily at the request of a council officer, not himself.
Cllr Humphrey added: “It’s not been my intention to make anybody feel threatened on this issue – but my position is that I’m leader of a council where people’s jobs have been on the line because of financial pressures. My only interest has been in avoiding a legal bill that could cost tens of thousands of pounds because of unreasonable planning decisions. It’s unclear yet how much legal costs the borough may have to pay, but it could be up to £100,000.”
Cllr Humphrey was present at a November’s meeting of Wolston Parish Council, where he informed the parish he was seeking advice over whether individuals or parish councils could be ordered to pay any borough legal bills. However, it’s emerged that this can only be the case if the planning reasons given are unlawful, rather than unreasonable, and so wouldn’t apply in this case.
Cllr Humphrey added: “In my opinion this has been blown out of proportion by some, all I’ve been trying to do is protect public money.”
Cllr Pacey-Day has not commented on the matter. Two applications to build the homes by Bloor Homes have been rejected by Rugby Borough Council this year, meaning the application is to go to appeal on January 29.