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Press release from South Cambs Lib Dems following Cllr Topping’s refusal to apologise for his discourtesy to the Government Planning Inspector.

by Bridget Smith on 25 November, 2017

South Cambs Leader refuses to apologise for incompetent handling of Local Plan

South Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats blasted the Leader of the District Council Peter Topping yesterday for his refusal to publicly apologise for sending a misleading email to parish councils claiming that the Local Plan inspection was about to come to a happy and swift conclusion.

Cllr Topping’s email had been criticised in a devastating and unprecedented letter from the Local Plan Inspectors. They said that a statement claiming that they had ‘not raised any fundamental concerns with the development strategy’ was wrong. In fact, they had done so in May 2015. The Inspectors then told the Council that it is ‘not appropriate for you to jump to conclusions prior to the receipt of our reports’ as they ‘cannot rule out the need to revisit issues’.

The letter from the Local Plan inspectors, dated 15 November 2017, also described their ’surprise’ at the Council’s decision to publish correspondence without discussing it with the inspection’s staff.

Cllr Topping has refused to apologise to the recipients of the email or to the Local Plan Inspectors.

Instead he has merely instructed council officers to apologise to the Inspectors, even though they did not send the email.

South Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrat group attempted to force an apology at the full Council meeting on 23 November, but their motion was defeated by the Tory majority on the Council.

Cllr Bridget Smith, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, said:

‘Cllr Topping’s showed very poor judgement in exploiting the tiny, but now extinguished, glimmer of hope that our local plan could have been adopted by spring to further the ambitions of his party.

‘The upshot has been that the Inspector has seen fit to write and to insist we publish a letter, the likes of which I have never before seen.

‘To anyone not conversant with Civil Service letter writing it might not seem too bad, but in fact this is nothing short of a 5-star, gold plated rollicking.

’Cllr Topping’s actions have embarrassed the council and its members and jeopardised the relationships that officers have built up with the inspector over the extremely long 4 years that this inspection has taken.

‘They have brought it and us into disrepute and made us a laughing stock.’

Cllr Aidan Van de Weyer, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for planning said:

‘Cllr Topping’s attempt to put the rosiest spin on progress of the Local Plan has come back to bite the Council.

‘His attempt to obfuscate the problems that face our communities has eroded the confidence our our residents in our ability to work on their behalf.

‘Rather than dealing with the mistake, Cllr Topping is making council officers carry the can, which is unacceptable.

‘Since the Leader is incapable of accepting that this was his fault and that it is his responsibility to apologise, then we have to do it for him.’

Cllr Aidan Van de Weyer, Liberal Democrat
Tel: +44 7545 922912
E-mail: [email protected]

1. Attachment: Email from Cllr Peter Topping to South Cambs councillors, 14 November 2017

2. Letter dated 15 November 2017 from the Inspections to South Cambs and Cambridge City:

3. The defeated motion proposed by the Liberal Democrat group was:

“Following the reprimand of this Council by the Local Plan Inspectors, this Council apologises on behalf of the Leader for, inter alia, jumping to conclusions and requests that the Chief Executive convey our apology to the Inspectors.”

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