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The truths they don't want you to read....

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Trumpted in Trumpton

Martin Ford hung out to dryI have the greatest sympathy with Councillor Martin Ford of Aberdeenshire Council, who was until today the Chair of the Infrastructure Services Committee.

Having had to deal with more than a few contentious planning applications in my time, I know that some decisions are more difficult than others and that there has to be respect between the applicants, the officials and the councillors to allow applications to be properly dealt with.

In this instance, Cllr Ford was faced with an intransigent developer who was trying to force through the plans without (as far as I can see) any concern about discussing and trying to resolve the matters that were causing concern.

And then attempting "take it or leave it" blackmail, instead of using the normal appeals process should they be unsuccessful.

However, Aberdeenshire should have removed the delegation from this matter, given the contentious nature of the matter, and referred the decision of the committee to the full Council for them to come to a view.

That's all immaterial now, as the Government have called it in - in great haste and under mysterious circumstances - leaving an unpleasant taste in the mouth for how this has been handled at every level.

The Committee that I Chaired refused tricky applications in the past, and allowed applicants to resubmit revised applications with no fee, which resulted in better plans being presented, and focused the minds of developers (and officials!) on resolving the problems. Some applications were deferred or withdrawn more than once before the majority gave approval.

However, it is with incredulity that I read the comments from my an old friend:
Leader of the SNP group on Aberdeenshire Council, Joanna Strathdee, said: "Aberdeenshire Council needs to restore the confidence of the business and wider community in the planning process and show the world that North East Scotland really is open for business and serious about inward investment."

What this is telling rich developers is that they can make unreasonable demands from the system - if they can meet with leading politicians - and then the Council will descend into an orgy of self-destruction and recrimination over their own inept mishandling of the situation.

Demonstrating spectacular ambivalence over the seriousness of the matter, the votes were:
  • 26 for removal
  • 10 against removal
  • 29 abstentions
  • 3 absent
Cynics like me will be barely able to wait to see the political make-up of the votes.

If anything, I would say that today's decision demonstrates the inability of Aberdeenshire Council to manage it's own affairs.


Anonymous said...

Big money talks, Angus, and it leaves a VERY foul taste in the mouth.
Don't forgot the influence of local MSP Alex Salmond (who?).

Anonymous said...

It is frightening to see how the pro-Trump crew are going about their business. For goodness sake complain yes but the vicious reaction is not good for democracy.
Anyway, just what Aberdeen needs, another 1,500 cars on its inadequate road network.

Anonymous said...

Having seen Angus and his committee deal with applications they knew how to balance the needs of the community with those of the developer.

Much work was done to ensure applications were 'right'. Some were rightly refused.

BUT - almost every refusal was allowed to come back with a modified proposal, which almost always solved the problems for applicant, objector, officers and committee.

Never did CNES bend to an applicant like Aberdeenshire and the SNP now have.

Anonymous said...

Personally I agree with the take it or leave it style - for an investment that big I'd rather go somewhere that wanted my money than jump through hoops elsewhere.

I think Martin Ford got what he deserved - he obviously had a chip on his shoulder about Trump's 'bullying' and as such when the planning committee was deadlocked he should have reffered it to the full council.

Anonymous said...


So far as I can tell, the sub-committee of which Ford was chair acted according to the rules--rules set by the Council itself.

In essence, Ford was sacked for doing his job exactly as prescribed. His sin, to be plain, was that he didn't vote the way the Council wanted. In other words, it is now quite clear that in Aberdeenshire, at least, you will be punished if you act in a democratic manner.

As a fellow train passenger of mine put it this morning, 'democracy doesn't exist in this case. There is no accountability--if the higher-ups don't like a decision, they simply abrogate it and sack the person responsible'.

That being so, why should any of us bother with 'deliberation' of any sort? Let's just refer everything to Executive level (not just 'Council' level), since it is apparent that the ultimate say lies there. We can refuse applications all we like, but it really makes no difference whatsoever.

Clearly, popular sovereignty is dead in Scotland (and in the UK at large), replaced by centralised, authoritarian government--rule by committee, and local authority be damned.

Makes you want to emigrate to a genuinely free country.