Complaint made to Suffolk Coastal over handling of Christopher Hudson’s suspension from planning committee before key decision
- Credit: Sarah Lucy brown
An official complaint has been submitted about the handling of a Suffolk councillor’s suspension from a planning committee, which left him unable to vote on key housing decisions affecting his ward.
Christopher Hudson was suspended from Suffolk Coastal District Council’s (SCDC) recent north area development management committee following allegations of “predetermination” regarding the two controversial applications.
The suspension was enacted just days before the proposals, for a total of 263 homes to be built in Framlingham, were heard by council on February 16.
Hilary Slater, head of legal services at SCDC, told the meeting on February 16 that the suspension had been recommended to avoid placing the committee’s decision at risk of bias accusations from the applicants.
She said a complaint had been made by Framlingham Town Council on the grounds Mr Hudson, who represents the town at SCDC, had spoken against the applications at a public meeting in October and had supported a “protest group” opposed to the plans.
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Framlingham Residents’ Association (FRAm), as the only “protest group” involved in the debate, has taken issue with the claims, and its chairman, Christopher Sharpe, submitted a complaint to SCDC.
He insists Mr Hudson had no involvement in FRAm, whose constitution precludes political affiliation. Mr Sharpe has alleged that no one from SCDC contacted any of his members to check these claims since the complaint was submitted by Framlington Town Council in November.
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“I felt that the record should be set straight in that Mr Hudson was not involved,” he said.
Although the committee voted to refuse the applications, which FRAm has welcomed, the removal of Mr Hudson from the committee just days before the decision has been contentious.
Stephen Burroughes, who is Framlingham’s county councillor and also sits on the planning committee, said he thought the fact Mr Hudson had been suspended might seem “awkward”.
“I think it’s been badly managed and the public might not feel they had been fairly represented,” Mr Burroughes added.
A spokesman for SCDC said there were set procedures governing how complaints against a councillor were dealt with, which, in this case, meant the leader of the council removed Mr Hudson from the committee based on recommendations from the monitoring officer.
“The leader of the council’s decision was made to ensure that the development management committee’s planning decision was not placed at risk from any legal challenge, and to ensure that Suffolk Coastal maintains the highest standard of governance,” he added.
Mr Hudson said he welcomed FRAm’s complaint about his suspension and confirmed he had never been involved with the group.