TOWN councillors in Whitchurch have agreed to ‘reflect’ on committee conduct, after a member of the public raised concerns about the handling of a recent planning application.

The application, which was discussed and supported by the town council’s development committee in December, would see Whitchurch Montessori Nursery and Forest School relocate from All Hallows Church to former railway land located between Park View and Wells Lane.

It will now be considered by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.

However, one member of the public wrote to the town council, expressing her concerns about the conduct of the development committee, referencing in particular that they appeared to ignore objections raised on the grounds of planning policies.

In a discussion at full town council on Monday (January 11), councillors considered a response to Virginia Lee’s concerns, drafted as a letter by the town Clerk.

Some councillors present at the development meeting agreed with elements of Mrs Lee’s concerns, but felt that overall the decision had been made in an informed way.

Cllr John Wall said; “I was present at the meeting and had done my homework and thought about the matter carefully. I concluded the proposal was a good idea.”

However, others said that while the decision had now been made and wasn’t up for dispute, conduct could be considered in the future.

Cllr John Buckley said: “This evening isn’t about the planning application and reasons for approval. We are here to look at the response that Virginia received. I am disturbed that Virginia actually felt it necessary to write her original letter and that the response doesn’t answer her concerns. If it had done so she wouldn't be here today. The proposed response in places is quite irrelevant to the point she’s making.

“I agree with that, being at the meeting. None of the supporters actually addressed any of the policies.

“We are opening ourselves up to suggestions of deals behind closed doors. I really urge that a clear and accurate response is given on the points raised in her letter and this should be a matter of priority to make sure all is transparent so we can work together and foster a good relationship with our residents.”

However, Cllr Keith Watts felt the letter sent by Mrs Lee covered so many elements that drafting a response was extremely difficult, and congratulated the clerk on her efforts.

He also put forward that any ‘reflection’ on conduct should concern all councillors, not just the development committee, which was echoed by Cllr Linda Stepney.

Cllr Tracy Woodruff, who was chairing the discussion as Cllr Klemz had a vested interest in the topic, proposed that the draft letter in response to Mrs Lee be accepted, and also that councillors have a reflection in all committees, particularly considering the reference to planning policies raised when making planning decisions.

This was passed, with six councillors in favour, three abstaining, and only Cllr Buckley against on the grounds he did not believe Mrs Lee was happy with the draft response received.