Monday, 16 July 2018

Woman in planning wrangle refused seat on parish council

A WOMAN involved in a planning dispute with Peppard Parish Council has failed in a bid to become a member.

A WOMAN involved in a planning dispute with Peppard Parish Council has failed in a bid to become a member.

Babli Shahi, who lives on the edge of the village, was told the council had “concerns” over her application to be co-opted.

She was advised to re-apply once a decision has been made on her application for a certificate of lawful development.

Mrs Shahi wants South Oxfordshire District Council to authorise the established use of an annexe at her home as an independent dwelling. She says the building has been rented out since 2001 but the parish council contests this.

Mrs Shahi, the widow of a cardiologist at the Royal Berkshire Hospital who died in 2002, told a meeting of the parish council that the couple and their two daughters had moved to Peppard 18 years ago.

She said the family became “very established and rooted” and she never felt alone even after being widowed. She had done voluntary work, including at Springwater Church.

“It was challenging but gave me the opportunity to give back a little bit to the village, which had given me so much support,” she said.

“Now, having had the privilege to retire, I have the time, passion and heart to be able to work with the parish and do something worthwhile in the community. I feel I can come in with new ideas.”

Council chairman David Hammond said he had been at two meetings where Mrs Shahi had raised “serious” issues over the parish council’s stance on her planning application.

He added: “I thought this would be a good opportunity to explain the concerns you have with the parish council and how it operates.”

Mrs Shahi replied that it would be “inappropriate” to comment, adding: “Those are my issues as a parish member but I’m not here on a personal agenda. Here I’m standing very publicly to be co-opted as a member.”

Cllr Hammond said the council had concerns over discrepancies in her application in which she said she was on holiday when a fire broke out at her home in 2006 but had told the Henley Standard at the time that she had been at home.

Mrs Shahi said: “There was a mistake. I wasn’t on holiday and neither was my youngest daughter. The person who was on holiday was my eldest daughter. The fire was irrelevant to any planning application.”

Cllr Hammond said: “The reason I’m raising these things is because part of the council’s code of conduct is honesty and integrity. I find it difficult to deal with a situation where you are presenting information which you are now saying wasn’t quite true.”

Councillor Tony Cotton told Mrs Shahi: “I don’t know if you feel you are going to influence us but you are probably putting yourself in a worse position because you are tying your hands.

“Whichever way the planning decision goes it would be more appropriate for you to put yourself forward to join this council when the decision has been made.”

Mrs Shahi said: “There’s nothing I need to influence.”

Councillor Leeanne Flett said she goes to Springwater Church most weeks but had never seen Mrs Shahi there.

Mrs Shahi said she had helped out about four years ago but was now involved with All Saints’ Church.

The council’s decision to refuse her application was unanimous.

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