Fringe Box



Controversial Head of Planning Leaves Borough Council With a Deal

Published on: 29 Jun, 2020
Updated on: 1 Jul, 2020

By Martin Giles

Tracey Coleman, the borough council’s controversial director and head of Planning, has left.

Tracey Coleman

Hired in 2016 after overseeing large-scale housing development in Wokingham and Ebbsfleet in Kent, she led the work on the Local Plan adopted by the then Tory-dominated GBC a week before the election last year swept them from power.

Her ambition and determination matched the drive of the Conservative leadership to force the Local Plan through in the face of vociferous opponents.

Those still unhappy with the Local Plan, inside and outside the council, are understood to be pleased at news of Ms Coleman’s departure.

Tensions between Ms Coleman, on a salary of about £90k, and some new R4GV councillors have been strongly rumoured since the election.

Cllr John Rigg (R4GV, Holy Trinity), was critical of the Planning department before he was elected.

Cllr John Rigg

In November, news emerged that the GBC Executive was unaware of a North Street planning application.

Cllr Rigg, responsible for overseeing town centre planning and major projects, told The Dragon: “I have been actively requesting a briefing or sight of a development brief from our Planning Department since our election in May.”

He said he did not even know whether a development brief existed. “I have asked but received no reply,” he added.

See also: Shock North Street Developer’s Scheme Catches Councillors By Surprise

And it is claimed Cllr Rigg found difficulty getting Ms Coleman to hold meetings with him, despite his senior council responsibility.

Others are still critical of her role in the attempt to secure government funding to make a bid for a “Garden Village at Wisley”, one of the strategic housing development sites in the Local Plan.

Ms Coleman admitted she had worked with property developers. She said then: “The council and Savills (on behalf of Wisley Property Investments) worked together to agree and produce a draft text for supporting a garden village, for onward use by stakeholders.”

She passed the draft letter to Matt Furniss, then Tory council deputy-leader and he gave it to David Hodge, then leader of Surrey County Council, who signed it. The Savills letter was eventually produced by former GBC leader Paul Spooner as evidence that SCC supported the scheme.

Cllr Spooner denied he or Cllr Furniss knew of its provenance and a council investigation found no wrongdoing.

Ms Coleman and GBC are understood to have negotiated a severance deal, said to be about £100k, that includes a “gagging clause”, standard at GBC, to prevent either party disclosing details or even mentioning its existence.

Tracey Coleman’s Linked In Page indicates she left GBC in December but GBC has confirmed that was not so, she left GBC this month.

GBC managing director James Whiteman said: “After three and a half years, Tracey has resigned to focus on new opportunities.

“We would like to thank Tracey for her hard work and dedication in progressing many key projects for the council and wish her well with her future plans.”

Ms Coleman has been invited to comment.

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Responses to Controversial Head of Planning Leaves Borough Council With a Deal

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    June 29, 2020 at 9:12 pm

    Mr O’Connnel is a loss. He worked hard in the background unsung on several matters in Burpham. I think he was one of the good guys.

  2. Will Lawrence Reply

    June 30, 2020 at 2:00 pm

    Maybe a silly question but if she resigned, why does she get severance? £100,000 is a lot of money.

    • Wayne Smith Reply

      July 4, 2020 at 10:11 pm

      Not a silly question at all! If someone chooses to resign from their job to “focus on new opportunities”, why would they get to negotiate a severance deal? And £100k is a tidy sum after just three and a half years. Something smells.

  3. Tom Stevens Reply

    July 1, 2020 at 7:02 pm

    What could Tracey Coleman possibly know that shouldn’t be in the public domain?

    What do the residents of Guildford get for this £100K expenditure?

    Was this “gagging” clause approved by the elected council?

    What about transparency in local government? How does this instil trust?

  4. Jules Cranwell Reply

    July 4, 2020 at 9:33 am

    This severance deal is scandalous, at a time when the council is strapped for cash. Are we to assume it was to keep her quiet? If so, what have they to hide?

  5. Martin Elliott Reply

    July 4, 2020 at 6:55 pm

    Does nobody live in the real world?

    Have they ever read their own contracts of employment, or even negotiated with the aid of their union? Yes, even at an executive level. When as a European manager, I was made redundant, I went with six months salary straight into a new job at a higher salary.

    It would be good if councils did a bit more with the same approach and ethics of the large businesses.

    It still annoys me that so many ‘government’ administration think themselves special and just train and recruit within their own envelope, as with Ms Coleman’s career. It’s not that special and the different culture of the private sector could be a great benefit.

    • Jules Cranwell Reply

      July 6, 2020 at 9:22 am

      Yes, but she resigned, so redundancy does not apply. Why does anyone need to be “gagged”? We only know about the collaboration with Savills over the Wisley “garden village”. How much more has yet to be revealed?

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