I ATTENDED the London borough of Harrow Strategic Planning Committee on May 14, at the Civic Centre.
On the agenda were a number of the most significant and high profile redevelopments in Harrow in decades.
These were: the new Harrow Leisure Centre; the new skateboard park; the redevelopment of Gayton Road car park; Gayton Library and Sonia Court to provide 383 flats in five blocks of up to 10 storeys high. Also, the redevelopment of Lowlands Recreation Ground and part of the existing Harrow College site for an eight to 10-storey block of flats.
The committee consists of seven floor members (four Conservatives and three Labour) plus the chairwoman who is Conservative.
The meeting was preceded by the same chaotic situation of the previous weeks' meeting with members of the public, who wished to attend the meeting, being directed to a different location by staff at the reception desk to the direction of the notices on the first floor.
At the start of the meeting, the chairwoman, Marilyn Ashton, proposed that the standing order should be changed.
This was to allow only one councillor to backbench on behalf of residents and two residents as opposed to the normal one to speak for five minutes rather than the usual three minutes on any particular application.
This last minute change meant that the councillor was to be a ward councillor and no other, as allegedly councillors have other opportunities to express their views.
I do not believe that they have any other such opportunity and a number of councillors who had attended the meeting to speak on behalf of residents objections to any application were unable to do so.
As was to be expected, the proposal was carried along party lines and debate on major issues affecting Harrow for decades were stifled.
The meeting was poorly run and at one point when Councillor Keith Ferry sought to get clarification on printed papers, the chairwoman snidely remarked that we can always rely on Councillor Ferry to have read all the papers.
Is that not what we should expect of all of our elected councillors?
The most appalling aspect of the meeting, however, was the attitude of the four Conservative members on the committee, bearing in mind the significance of these developments to the future of Harrow.
Two Conservative councillors did not have any questions to raise or any comments to make on any of these important applications.
One made a very small contribution to the last of the applications and one had only a few minor questions or comments to raise.
With this lack of interest, one wonders if they had actually read the agenda and supportive papers, and had chosen to ignore site situations, misleading statements in the developers proposals and the implications of some of the council officers appraisals.
One also wonders whether they were asleep, safe in the knowledge that they knew when to raise their hands in unison, in support of all the applicants against the wishes of hundreds of residents.
It is not surprising that many members of the public came away from a sham of a meeting dismayed
at the muppet like performance of their elected Conservative council-lors.
R W TUCKER
Ashburnam Avenue Harrow