DEVELOPERS have been warned off attempting to influence local politicians after councillors complained that they had been targeted in persistent lobbying campaigns.
The issue has now led to High Peak Borough Council strengthening their detailed advice for councillors and others on how lobbying should be handled.
Councillor Stewart Young, Vice-Chairman of the Development Control Committee and a member of the Development Plan Select Committee, had raised the matter after becoming increasingly concerned about the nature and amount of lobbying material he was receiving from “persistent developers.”
The material was still being sent even after he had clearly informed their representatives about the provisions of the Council’s protocol for councillors who serve on these committees.
Cllr Young had asked if there were any further steps that could be taken to avoid the “unwelcome intrusion” by advising developers robustly and explicitly about the Council’s determination and specific protocols to secure the integrity and transparency of the local planning process.
Executive Member for Planning, Cllr Linda Baldry, said: “It is crucial that the Council’s planning decisions not only are, but are perceived by our residents to be, firmly based on policy and evidence, fair, open and transparent.”
She said she shared the concerns which had also been drawn to her attention by other councillors – but warned there was little which the Council could realistically do to prevent lobbying.
But she also hit out at protestors: “Whilst welcoming challenge and constructive comments from residents and developers which help improve the quality of development in the Borough, regrettably, some opponents of controversial development proposals all too often seek to argue their cases by publicly casting unfounded and damaging allegations of bias on the Council and, by implication, the integrity both of the councillors who serve on the Development Control Committee and our officers and do not reflect the diligent and painstaking work that councillors and officers do to make sure that development in our community is properly managed.”
Cllr Baldry said officers during pre-application discussions with developers highlighted the protocols and that any direct approaches they may be considering would be both “inappropriate and unwelcome.”