Residents prepare to demand Local Referendum on Heathrow as unprecedented Parish Meeting called
A Meeting of the Parish has been called for June 16 by residents who intend to invoke a clause in the 1972 Local Government Act to trigger a referendum on a Colnbrook Runway.
In an event unprecedented in the twenty year history of the parish of Colnbrook with Poyle, a Meeting of the Parish has today been called … by parishioners themselves!
Everybody agrees that a Colnbrook Runway and SIFE could completely transform the parish over the next few years. Some say that is a good thing, others are vehemently opposed to change. However, residents are angry that neither Colnbrook Parish Council nor Slough Borough Council have asked them for their views – yet both have presumed to make policy decisions with potentially enormous consequences for the future of the village … and those who live in it.
Aggrieved that elected representatives have failed to reach out to the community at large, residents have taken it upon themselves to do it anyway!
Colnbrook with Poyle Parish Council dismissed a call for a local referendum at a Parish Council meeting on November 4, without even a vote of councillors. Only a show of hands from a few dozen at the Village Hall has given councillors the presumption that resolute opposition to the runway plans exists. Tempers frayed at the Annual Meeting of the Parish when one resident, Roy Sanders, angrily protested the opposite - supported by newbie Cllr Kinane.
Today it can be announced that residents of the parish, both for and against expansion, have come together to call for a Meeting of the Parish later this month to discuss a possible Heathrow Third Runway through the village and the Slough International Freight Exchange (SIFE).
First item on the agenda is whether or not to call for a Local Referendum on the Heathrow issue.
While the Conservatives’ moves to empower communities embedded in the Localism agenda and the ‘Big Society’ were quickly watered down by the last Government, archaic clauses in the Local Government Act 1972 give parished areas of the country unique powers. The right to hold a local referendum, denied to most of the borough of Slough, can be triggered by any one of the three parishes – with or without the backing of their Parish Councils.
There was criticism at the Annual Meeting of the Parish on May 19 that a request to place Heathrow on the agenda had been illegally refused in favour of a Q&A session. Now, with the Parish Council refusing to discuss a referendum, six residents have stepped forward to exercise their legal right to do the same.
Slough Borough Council held its own consultation on Heathrow, which finished just before the Airports Commission published its analysis on the three shortlisted options. Just 52 residents responded to the survey (across the borough, let alone Colnbrook), or 0.06% of the electorate (92,630, 2011), which found a generally positive attitude about the airport despite concerns about air quality and noise. The result, which did not ask whether residents would favour a third runway, was nevertheless used by Cabinet to guide its decision to support expansion. Richmond, Hillingdon and Hounslow councils did give their residents a referendum on Heathrow in 2013.
The spirited six who have supported the meeting call should see the motion passed with little difficulty. Under the little used clause in the 1972 Act, if just ten electors vote in favour the motion is carried.
Slough Borough Council would be obliged under the rules to administer a poll within 14 and 25 days of notification of the result of the meeting. With the bill for both being passed to the Parish Council, that could raise the prospect of a Local Referendum and by-election (for the two vacancies on the Parish Council failed to be taken up by the Cheemas) being held on the same day.
The meeting will also discuss the Slough International Freight Exchange (SIFE) to gauge whether there is support in the community for resurrecting the stopSIFE campaign in view of the imminent SIFE appeal.
The meeting will take place on Tuesday, June 16, at 8pm in the upstairs function room of The Ostrich and will be open to everybody to attend … and speak.