A COUNCILLOR who chose to disqualify herself from voting against a controversial planning application says she has no regrets.
Coun Pat Jones, ward member for the Stray area, spoke against Marstons’ application to turn the Mile Post pub on Leeds Road into a Sainsbury’s store, but opted out of voting, meaning the application was passed by four votes to three.
Last Wednesday, she wrote to the Advertiser explaining her actions. “Councillors can choose to either campaign on an issue in their wards or ‘keep their powder dry’ and, having weighed all the evidence, vote on a planning application,” she said. “To do both would be like acting as a witness and a member of a jury at a trial.
“As recently as January 15, the law was revised under the Localism Act so that a councillor is not barred from voting ‘just because’ he or she has campaigned on a matter, there has to be real evidence of a closed mind.
“Nevertheless, having campaigned so hard and for such a long time against this development, I sought advice and having considered that, I felt I had no choice but to speak against and leave the council chamber whilst colleagues debated their decision.”
Asked later if she regretted the decision, she said: “No. If I had voted, it would have levelled the numbers. All it would have meant was that the chairman would have made the casting vote - who knows what he would have done.”
Coun Jones added that it had been a very difficult decision, but said: “I felt, because I was so deeply involved, that I didn’t really have a choice.”
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Harrogate Chamber of Trade, chief executive Brian Dunsby criticised the town’s planners.
“Planning decisions are getting curiouser and curiouser,” he said.
“I am really quite distressed that they approved Tesco, with all of our objections, and now they have approved the Mile Post application as well.
“It’s just absolutely ludicrous.
“It makes me wonder what the whole planning process is for.”