Brief encounter: MP and councillor clash over rail freight meeting
PUBLISHED: 19:50 22 January 2009 | UPDATED: 13:51 06 May 2010
A COMPLAINT made against a leading St Albans councillor resulting from a meeting over the prospect of a new rail freight depot application has been rejected. St Albans MP Anne Main made the complaint to the district council s standards committee against
A COMPLAINT made against a leading St Albans councillor resulting from a meeting over the prospect of a new rail freight depot application has been rejected.
St Albans MP Anne Main made the complaint to the district council's standards committee against planning portfolio holder, Cllr Chris Brazier, over a briefing last month about the current situation regarding the rail freight depot.
Shortly before Christmas developers Helioslough announced its intention to submit a new application for a rail freight depot on Radlett Airfield following the refusal of the original application after a planning inquiry last year..
Mrs Main complained that by disclosing information about the briefing to the Herts Advertiser and another paper, Cllr Brazier failed to comply with the district council's code of conduct.
She maintained that the meeting was confidential, that by telling the press he had convened it he had undermined her work as an MP and by speaking to the press, he had put the council in the difficult position of appearing to have predetermined any proposed planning application from Helioslough.
She also claimed that by briefing political colleagues about the meeting, Cllr Brazier had sought to gain a personal advantage with a view to promoting his own position.
But the standards committee cleared Cllr Brazier on all counts.
A delighted Cllr Brazier accused Mrs Main this week of trying to stifle democracy. He went on: "I am the planning portfolio holder for St Albans, we are the strategic planning authority for this area and it is us who will determine the application for a rail freight terminal.
"By arranging the meeting I was allowing STRiFE, party political candidates and group leaders to come together and hear how the process of the application would be dealt with.
"I was trying to make it non party political which is why I invited group leaders and Anne Main, who decided not to attend."
Cllr Brazier said he had no idea that Mrs Main had also asked chief executive Daniel Goodwin to arrange a briefing meeting as well and added: "She didn't contact me before making a complaint or to arrange a meeting before or since. I want to use our MP to help us."
Mrs Main said she had not received an invitation to a briefing meeting from Cllr Brazier and maintained that she should have marked her request for a meeting to the chief executive as confidential.
She went on: "I only made a complaint because my concern was that it was detrimental to my work on behalf of my constituents. I don't want to make a political point over this. I want to work with the council."
She said she had wanted only a small meeting to be held and was unhappy that it had been extended to include parliamentary candidates. She added: "If there is one thing to be learned about this, it is that if you are going to have a public meeting, make it public but if it is restricted, there should not be anything in the press.