Cabinet defers decision on Botley SPD

The first thing that happened at Cabinet this morning (after a question from a member of the public about Abbey Meadow Pool, and then one about affordable housing at Grove) was that four members excused themselves in order to maintain the separation between property sales and planning.

Remaining were Cllrs Cox (chairing), Murray, Dickson and Lovatt.

Cllr Cox proposed to defer decision on the Botley SPD to give them time to check the various claims they’ve had of unlawful and unsound practices. Cabinet agreed to defer.

Those who had come to speak were invited to, if they liked. Dr Mary Gill spoke first. Then Dr Stephen Parkinson. Mr Neil Rowley of Savills declined. Cllr Dudley Hoddinott spoke too, after me.

I spoke, but didn’t deliver my whole pitch. My objective (the Main Thing) had been to convince them to go back, take another look and tighten up all the sloppy bits of this process. There was no point in arguing after that point was won. (They had me at “deferred”!)

But I questioned Cllr Cox about his conflict of interest in sitting on this panel. He was one of the Cabinet members who originally made the decision to sell the land to Doric in 2012.

I asked him if he could tell me the reason he did not take his seat on planning committee the night in Dec 2014 when the Doric application was determined. He said it was to avoid the appearance of bias. I asked what had changed between then and now, what made him think he wasn’t in the same situation. He said, “My hands are clean.” He said he has not been involved in the property side of the issue since those early days. I guess I’ll have to look and see if that’s the case.

When I asked about the timeline, we were told we can expect a statement “in a couple of weeks”.