Row rumbles on over controversial boundary changes in Nortumberland

A Northumberland parish council has questioned whether a county councillor should have voted in the tight decision to change its boundary against its will.

By Ben O'Connell
Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 6:00 am
Boundary changes
Boundary changes

But the county council has said his involvement ‘is not considered to have been contrary to the rules’.

A change to the boundary with Hauxley Parish Council, on the southern side of the town, to include the whole of the sewerage works and the remainder of the adjacent field, where an application for 272 homes was approved in outline in December 2019 followed by the detailed plans in July this year, was recommended for approval.

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However, it was strongly opposed by the parish council and the local ward member, Cllr Terry Clark, spoke against it at the meeting.

The subsequent named vote resulted in a tie of 22 for and 22 against, with 15 abstentions, and the chairman, Cllr Richard Dodd, used his casting vote to approve the change.

In the aftermath, Hauxley Parish Council had questioned the legality of this decision in relation to Cllr Jeff Watson, the ward member for Amble West with Warkworth, voting despite also being a member of Amble Town Council, which would ‘financially gain from the altering of the boundary’ once in ‘receipt of the precept for the properties to be built and occupied on the permitted Hauxley Grange development site’.

However, a Northumberland County Council spokeswoman said: “It is a matter for each member as to whether they should participate in an item of business, notwithstanding any potential interest.

“Cllr Watson’s involvement in this matter is not considered to have been contrary to the rules which councillors must abide by in such circumstances.”

Cllr Watson pointed out that he is also a member of Warkworth Parish Council, which would have been affected by one of the other proposed changes that was voted down.

He noted that his membership of both Amble and Warkworth councils is on his declaration of interest and that Cllr Clark was there to speak and vote against the proposal on behalf of his residents.

“I’m sure Hauxley Parish Council is upset, but I don’t benefit from Amble getting those houses and Hauxley doesn’t lose as they don’t have them at the moment,” he added. “I looked at it and thought it was the right thing to do.”

At the September meeting of Hauxley Parish Council, members noted that there is no route of appeal and the only way to overturn the decision would be via a judicial review which is unaffordable.

As boundary alteration affects the designated neighbourhood area for the purposes of the Hauxley Neighbourhood Plan, which currently mirrors the parish boundary, the plan’s steering group will now look at altering the area to reflect the altered civil boundary.

Meanwhile, an engagement exercise has started on the draft vision, objectives, policy themes and community actions for the plan.

The engagement document is being delivered to every door within the Hauxley parish and a link to the online survey is available on https://northumberlandparishes.uk/hauxley

The consultation closes on Friday, October 23, and every resident of Hauxley parish is encouraged to respond.

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