HARTLEPOOL council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher says he meets with developers as part of his role after being questioned by a resident at a meeting of the full council.
Coun Akers-Belcher was asked by town man Steve Latimer whether he had met with developers of the proposed 603 house development on land north of the A689 at Wynyard Business Park before the plans went before Hartlepool Borough Council’s planning committee last Autumn.
The chair of the finance and policy committee, who does not sit on planning, admitted meeting with the developers last July but said he regularly meets with developers and other stakeholders in his role as council leader.
The Wynyard housing plans were deferred by the planning committee last September until outstanding issues around transport concerns and developer contributions were resolved.
A month later the council’s Local Plan, a 15-year planning blueprint which cost £1.5m and took five years to produce, was withdrawn after a majority of councillors backed a motion by the Labour Group at full council.
At the time, Coun Akers-Belcher, said he had discovered amended legislation which meant it was possible to withdraw the plan, which he said was “divisive rather than cohesive” for the whole town.
He added it would give the council the opportunity to look again at housing provision and the need and demand for a traveller site and discuss whether one is needed at all. But councillor Jonathan Brash, who refers to himself as independent Labour, said at the time he believed withdrawing the Local Plan was also down to fears that plans for hundreds of homes at Wynyard would not have got the go-ahead if the Plan had been adopted.
Mr Latimer’s question at Thursday’s full council was read out by council chief executive Dave Stubbs.
It read: “Could the chair of the finance and policy committee confirm whether or not he met with the developers or their representatives of the proposed 603 house development at Wynyard prior to their planning application for the development being heard by the planning committee?”
In reply, Coun Akers-Belcher said: “Whilst their needs to be a clear demarcation between roles in the council, I would initially say I have not met with any developers as chair of finance and policy.
“But, as the council’s principal public spokesperson, in accordance with this council’s constitution, I met with Wynyard Developments on July 8, 2013, and was accompanied by the chief executive, director of regeneration and neighbourhoods and the assistant director of regeneration.
“The planning application to which you refer was considered by the planning committee, of which I am not a member, on September 25, 2013.
“One of the remits of my own position within the council constitution is to act for the benefit of all interested parties and stakeholders.
“To this end I work collaboratively with our senior officers within the council and have met a number of developers over the last year.
“These include Wynyard Developments but also cover Gus Robinson Developments, Vela and Housing Hartlepool, Norcare, Tees Valley Housing and Euro Property Management.
“This work is in accordance with the role and function of the leader of the council to provide policy direction and progress the council’s objectives with the chief executive, chief officers, partners and other stakeholders.”