Cash for Green Belt: minutes show how councillors wrestled with their conscience over Solar Farm
More details have been revealed of the degree to which parish councillors wrestled with the pro’s and con’s of a £360,000 “Community Benefit Fund” versus defending their Green Belt policy.
Minutes published from the Services Commitee on November 17, the last before Slough’s Planning Committee rejected the scheme on November 26, detail the discussions and deliberations that saw councillors soul searching over whether or not to support it.
Only five out of twelve councillors managed to turn up for the meeting, the minimum number needed for the meeting to actually go ahead. Apologies were received from Cllrs Angell, Bedi, Grewal, Kinane, Smith, Ellum-Smith and Laxman.
Cllr Hood told colleagues that Slough would recommend refusal on the same grounds as the SIFE application. However, he believed the Solar Farm was different and made a case for councillors to back it:
… the Solar Farm development was a passive, static, green initiative replacing a bio-fuel crop and was a sustainable development which would not impact on road congestion and pollution in the way that SIFE would …
He asked for members’ thoughts.
Cllr Richardson noted that the development would bring money into the parish in the form of the Community Benefit Fund.
Cllr Jackson had concerns in supporting the application on the grounds that the Parish Council’s objection to SIFE had placed great emphasis on preserving the Green Belt.
He felt that what is left of the Green Belt should be preserved.
Cllr Hood insisted that all the evidence had been heard in regard to SIFE already and since the Planning Inspector was already concluding her report on SIFE it would not change the comments on this application.
He added that the parish could miss the opportunity of the Community Benefit Fund which could generate £360,000 over the 25 years.
Cllr Hood proposed, and Cllr Bryant seconded, that Cllr Hood speak at the Planning Panel meeting on November 26 in support of the proposed Community Benefit Fund that the application would bring about.
Four councillors voted for and one abstained; seven were absent.
Following Cllr Hood’s address to the Planning Committee the application was rejected on the grounds that it would see a further fragmentation of the Green Belt and the “loss of important open land within the Strategic Gap at Colnbrook and Poyle“.
Where they claim to stand on the Green Belt
Seven councillors have made public statements or commitments to defending Colnbrook’s Green Belt. Between the parish meetings on 3 and 17 November when the Solar Farm was discussed all had the opportunity to lodge their objection.
Who has kept their word and who has broken their promise?
|Councillors committing to defend Green Belt||Councillors with no public view on Green Belt|
|Angell||No manifesto in 2015 but in 2011 “protection of the Green Belt” was one of eight commitments made as part of the Independent Minds grouping.||Bedi||No policies other than to develop a flood action plan and to campaign against a third runway.|
|Brooks||Objects to a Third Runway on the grounds it “would be a full frontal assault on Green Belt and tranquillity”.||Bryant||No policies shared.|
|Elum-Smith||“I will work with the Parish Council to make sure green belt is protected and also preserving the setting and special character of historic village in Colnbrook”.||Grewal||No policies shared.|
|Hood||No manifesto in 2015 but in 2011 “protection of the Green Belt” was one of eight commitments made as part of the Independent Minds grouping.||Kinane||No Green Belt policies, but promised “to take a keen interest in redevelopments in the area”.|
|Jackson||Strongly opposed to airport expansion, SIFE and the use of Sutton Lane for a contractor’s site.||Richardson||No policies shared.|
|Laxman||No manifesto in 2015 but in 2011 “protection of the Green Belt” was one of eight commitments made as part of the Independent Minds grouping.|
|Smith||“Letting any part of our Green Belt go is the thin edge of the wedge, and I would oppose it on that basis”.|