I ATTENDED the Harrow strategic planning committee meeting 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 and the redevelopment of the Lowlands Road Recreation Ground and part of the existing Harrow College for the redevelopment of Harrow College in an eight to 10-storey building.
The committee consists of seven floor members (four Conservatives and three Labour), plus the chairman, who is Conservative.
The meeting was preceded by the same chaotic situation of the previous week's strategic planning committee meeting, with members of the public who wished to attend the meeting, being directed to a different location by staff at the reception desk in the direction of the notices on the first floor.
At the start of the meeting the chairman, Marilyn Ashtons proposed that the standing orders 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, albeit 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 was stifled.
The meeting was poorly run and at one point when Councillor Keith Ferry sought to get clarification on printed papers the chairman 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 our elected councillors?
The most appalling aspect of the meeting was, however, the attitude of the four Conservative members of 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 one very small contribution to the last of these applications and one had only a few rather minor questions or comments to raise.
With this lack of interest one wonders if they had actually read the agenda and supporting papers and had chosen to ignore site situations, statements in the developer's proposals and the implications of some of the council officer's appraisals. One also wonders whether they were asleep, save for the fact that they knew when to raise their hands in unison in support of all of the applications 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 councillors.
R W TUCKER
Ashburnham Avenue Harrow