Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Neighbourhood plan chairman rejects offer to continue

THE former vice-chairman of Woodcote Parish Council has rejected an offer to continue as chairman of its neighbourhood plan advisory group.

Geoff Botting resigned from the council in January but his former colleagues invited him to continue leading the group as they felt he was best qualified, having overseen production of the document.

The plan names up to seven sites where about 76 homes should be built by the year 2027 to meet government targets. It is legally binding after passing a referendum in April 2014 but is due to be updated to reflect South Oxfordshire District Council’s draft local plan, which will apply until 2034.

Mr Botting, of Behoes Lane, Woodcote, said he had turned down the request but would remain an ordinary member of the group under acting chairman Malcolm Smith, a parish councillor.

He wouldn’t discuss the matter further.

Councillor Peter Sudbury told a council meeting in January that Mr Botting was an “excellent” project manager but often responded “destructively” to dissenting views. He said this risked breaching the “Nolan principles” of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership which councillors were expected to abide by.

This week, Cllr Sudbury said: “I deeply regret that Geoff has chosen not to continue as chairman as he was extraordinarily qualified and had undoubtedly earned the position.

“I’m very sorry that my concerns were interpreted as an attack on his chairmanship as a whole but hindsight is a wonderful thing.” Cllr Smith, who is expected to be made permanent chairman at the group’s next meeting, said: “It is very unfortunate that Geoff didn’t feel able to continue but as long as he remains on the team we will continue to benefit from his considerable knowledge and experience.

“Looking to the future, we’ve had some meetings with landowners but haven’t been able to make significant progress for some time as we cannot be certain about what the future holds until the local plan is finalised.”

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