Fringe Box



Letter: Councillor Owes Wisley Campaigner An Apology

Published on: 30 Apr, 2019
Updated on: 30 Apr, 2019

From Tony Edwards

spokesperson for Wisley Action Group

Mr Edwards refers to an exchange that occured during the GBC Executive meeting that was held at 1030am, April 25 (2019), the GBC webcast of which can be viewed here.

Helen Jefferies addressing the GBC Executive Committee

With what can best be described as supreme arrogance, Cllr David Bilbe [Con, Normandy] demanded to know why the QC who has been acting for the Wisley Action Group [WAG] did not, himself, attend the council meeting on April 25th to present the arguments against the Local Plan put forward by WAG member Mrs Helen Jefferies. If ever we needed evidence that certain Guildford councillors are completely out of touch with reality, that was surely it.

Does Cllr Bilbe not understand that leading barristers charge very high fees which, in this case, have been paid by Guildford residents over many years in their support for WAG’s campaign to protect the green belt land at “Three Farms Meadows”, the former Wisley airfield, from the aspirations of Cayman Island developers and a local council which refuses to hear the voice of local residents?

Cllr David Bilbe questioning Helen Jefferies

But then, in a somewhat bullying tone, Cllr Bilbe dismissed Mrs Jefferies’ verbatim comments from a letter to the Secretary of State from WAG’s QC – copies of which had already been sent to all councillors prior to the meeting – as “hearsay”, demonstrating not only arrogance but ignorance.

I’ve since emailed the councillor asking him if, in retrospect, he accepts that Mrs Jefferies’ comments were valid and most certainly not “hearsay” and, if he doesn’t agree, to explain why.

But, perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve not had the courtesy of a response. Cllr Bilbe made a very public rebuttal of valid comment from Mrs Jefferies who deserves an apology.

Cllr Bilbe was sent the above letter by The Guildford Dragon and invited to respond. This is what he wrote:

I have not received any letter from Anthony Edwards and if he wishes to send it to me on me again he will of course receive an appropriate reply. I am unable to comment to any unconfirmed statements in a letter from a private individual to the Secretary of State or indeed in any capacity of a professional nature where I am not the client. I do not believe that I am able to offer much in the way of input to that or the various statements made in the letter by the QC.

The way in which the representation was made in my view was definitive. A letter citing a senior lawyer’s view without hearing that view first hand is in my view hearsay. If this was submitted in a court of law it would only be allowed with the court’s permission. This is fundamental to the way in which things operate.

A statement made in support of a point of view should be properly produced and examined. If Mrs Jeffries thought that was arrogant then that is unfortunate.

Indeed lawyers are expensive and sometimes unavailable, there is no doubt. I believe that a comprehensive debate of matters would have been more appropriate perhaps at the time of the public inquiry and indeed if a Judicial Review is granted then that is the time to address some of these matters.

I will reply directly to Mr Edwards when I see his letter.

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test 5 Responses to Letter: Councillor Owes Wisley Campaigner An Apology

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    April 30, 2019 at 6:20 pm

    Councillor Bilbe makes a hair-splitting point about evidence that can only be admitted with a court’s permission. GBC is not a court. Cllr Bilbe is a politician not a judge.

    The council’s standards where evidence is concerned are lamentable and routinely fall short of the Nolan Principles. Look no further than the Juneja affair. Or to the Letter of Support from Surrey County Council that was written by the developer’s consultant, not by GBC.

    Who is Cllr Bilbe to impugn Mrs Jefferies character? Is he seeking to imply that Harwood QC did not give the opinion that Mrs Jefferies cited? On what grounds? Isn’t this just the usual GBC tactic of “playing the man and not the ball”?

    Cllr Bilbe should start to show the public some respect and stop trying to make bogus legal-sounding points.

  2. John Perkins Reply

    May 1, 2019 at 8:13 am

    Councillor Bilbe is strictly legal cum dancing on the head of a pin.

    It would be helpful if councillors, elected to serve residents, treated them with some respect – at least as equals. Perhaps a start towards that will be made tomorrow.

  3. Valerie Thompson Reply

    May 1, 2019 at 10:25 am

    Anyone who heard Councillor Bilbe’s comments on the webcast would have thought them arrogant, misinformed, and somewhat aggressive.

    There was no need to comment on Helen Jefferies’ statement at all. It’s just another example of GBC needing to make denigrating remarks to trivialise any member of the public’s well-researched and apposite objections.

  4. Peta Malthouse Reply

    May 1, 2019 at 7:37 pm

    On the hearsay point can I say that, of course, quoting someone else is hearsay but that does not make it wrong and in a civil court, for instance, the judge would hear it but determine how much he should rely on it. What Mr Bilbe can only say is that he distrusts the truth of it’s reporting.

    In reality, this is reported as a quote from a letter signed by the QC and circulated to all councillors before the meeting and is therefore not hearsay at all. And it was a council meeting, not a criminal court. Ms Jeffries had been more than fair, what a dreadful thing to say to her.

    Cllr Bilbe would do well to stop trying to trash the messenger rather than deal with the issues that are raised. If members of the Executive feel that people are not truly reporting the position fairly then all they have to do is put their views forward fully reasoned so that we may decide for ourselves. The QC’s letter was circulated before the meeting. they can hardly claim to have been taken by surprise.

  5. Anthony Edwards Reply

    May 2, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    For the record, and the avoidance of doubt, Cllr Bilbe received an e-mail from me on April 26th – followed by a few follow-up e-mails. He has since acknowledged receipt.

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