Fringe Box



Letter: Cllr Hunt Makes Misrepresentations of His Own

Published on: 24 Mar, 2024
Updated on: 24 Mar, 2024

From: Ben Paton

In response to: The Dragon Says – When Will Our Councillors “Walk the Walk” On Openness?

I am not sure the Dragon Says piece included any misrepresentations but Cllr Hunt’s letter makes misrepresentations of his own.

His letter illustrates why he should not be allowed anywhere near important decisions like this.

Taking his points in turn:

Point 1: “GBC is not selling the land – yet… I accept this is a pedantic point”.

This is not just, in his words, a “pedantic point”. It is just wrong. When a person enters into an option agreement he has entered into an irrevocable obligation to sell at a time of the option holder’s choosing. An option agreement commits the person granting the option to a certain course of action in the future.

Point 2. “The decision to enter into the option agreement does not allow development of the Blackwell Park site; only approval of a planning application can do this.”

This is another hair-splitting, cheese-paring pedantic point. As a matter of fact the option agreement does literally “allow” development of the Blackwell Farm site.

It does not make development absolutely 100 per cent certain. But first of all it makes it possible and second of all it makes it more probable. Without the option agreement development was impossible.

The whole point of a “ransom strip” is that without it development is not possible. By putting the strip under option Mr Hunt makes development possible when previously it was impossible.

Point 3. “…The future ownership of the land in question is not relevant to questions about the development, or whether the land could or should form part of the expanded Surrey Hills National Landscape.”

Ownership is not “relevant” to development!

So does Mr Hunt believe that it is possible to development land that you do not and cannot own?

Self evident twaddle.

Point 4: “…the option agreement relates to the potential sale of land less than 0.2 hectares in area (which I understand is equivalent to an area less than a third of a football pitch), and as described above does not allow development of the site without a subsequent planning application”.

The relevance and importance of a piece of land is not determined wholly or even in part by its size. A key is small in relation to a lock. And the lock is even tinier in relation to the gate or to the field.

Mr Hunt plainly does not understand the meaning and purpose of a ransom strip. By definition a ransom strip may be small. It might be a few meters. It is not the size of the parcel of land that counts. It is its location and ability to unlock the value of something bigger.

It is not an excuse to say, “Oh but I only gave them the key and the key was so small.”

Point 5. “All decisions are published on the website, and the vast majority are uncontroversial.”

This is the nub of the point made in The Dragon article. Minor, inconsequential and “uncontroversial” decisions can be made by officers precisely because they do not change the built or natural environment in the Borough.

But when a decision unlocks the ability to build a whole new suburb on green field land then it is plainly a matter of public interest.

If Mr Hunt cannot see that then he should not be a councillor. After all, whose interest is he there to protect? The public’s or the developer’s?

Point 6. “…BPL has advised that it should be treated as commercial in confidence”.

Mr Hunt did not have to accept this condition. Why did he? This implies that Mr Hunt feels a greater obligation to the owners of Blackwell Farm than to the electorate.

Why would that be?

Point 7. “…I discussed with the officer to whom authority was delegated whether the decision should be made by the Executive, and agreed that it should not be.”

Mr Hunt takes the trouble to tell us that he would make the same decision again – after receipt of further information. But he does not take the trouble to explain why.

How does he justify taking this decision privately – between him and the officer?

There is a clear inference that Mr Hunt was acting to facilitate development of a major green field site before any review of the 2019 Local Plan and without any public scrutiny. That may be legal. But it is not transparent and it is definitely wrong.

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Responses to Letter: Cllr Hunt Makes Misrepresentations of His Own

  1. Leo Jewel Reply

    March 24, 2024 at 12:09 pm

    Seems to me to be a classic case of the Lib Dem-led council knowing the cost of many things and the value of nothing.

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