Liberal Democrats and Green Alliance councillors on Uttlesford condemn R4U “amateurish” leadership over Airport costs
By Melvin Caton
Originally published by Uttlesford Liberal Democrats
The Lib Dem and Green Alliance councillors on Uttlesford District Council did not support the decision of the R4U led council last Wednesday to make an offer to Stansted Airport Lid (STAL) of £1.4m to cover the Airport's costs incurred at the Planning Appeal in March last year.
Green councillor Vere Isham (Takeley) told the meeting "As we watched the Appeal process play out, as we feared, our legal Counsel did not even attempt to defend the Planning Committee decision to refuse STAL permission to expand to 43mppa. The Inspectors panel dismissed the Council's "shrewd" alternative Condition 15 as unlawful. This resulted directly in an award by the Inspectors for costs against our Council because of its recklessness and unreasonableness.
Lib Dem Councillor Khan (Stansted South and Birchanger) said "Let me be crystal clear this Administration stands responsible and yet no one from R4U shows any humility to accept that they got it wrong. What an incredibly sad day for the District, and what an incredibly sad day for all of our residents who ultimately must foot this bill. Money that the council could have put to better use"
Cllr Geoffrey Sell (Stansted North) pointed out that the proposed £1.4m offer to the airport was "the equivalent of a fifth of the annual income that the council got from Council Tax in the current financial year or £15 per every man, woman and child in the district. The council could have built a 3G football pitch in one of our larger communities, like the one that has been provided in Saffron Walden, with that amount of money."
After the meeting Melvin Caton, leader of Lib Dem and Green Alliance Group on Uttlesford said "I was amazed by comments from the R4U Portfolio holder for Finance Cllr Neil Hargreaves described the £1.4m as "bonus money" as it is kept in a special reserve. As Cllr Sell said at the meeting the money can only be used once so some opportunities to make improvements to services for Uttlesford residents will be lost with this award of costs. Including the £1.4m costs offer I estimate the Airport appeal has cost the council well over £2.5m to date. If STAL reject the Council's offer then legal costs will escalate and other reserves will have to be used at a time when the council will be a seeking to make savings in its operations."
"The whole Airport Appeal process was a muddle and demonstrates clearly the "amateurish" leadership of the Council under R4U" Cllr Caton added.