Councillor defends not backing review of Hart gypsy decision

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A COUNCILLOR accused of letting down villagers in Hart after he failed to support a review of the gypsy and traveller site decision has defended his position.

Labour councillor Paul Beck, who said he is fully behind residents and won’t be resigning, said it wouldn’t have made any difference if he had backed the review as the majority of councillors did not support it.

Paul Beck

Paul Beck

He said the reason he had been unavailable for comment was because he was away in Oxford supporting family members on the second anniversary of the death of his son Darren Beck.

Darren, who was aged 37, was diagnosed with throat cancer before the disease spread to his spine and brain.

Village leaders last week hit out at Coun Beck and his Labour ward colleague, Jean Robinson, for failing to support calls for a review of the decision taken by Hartlepool Borough Council’s finance and policy committee.

That was despite Coun Beck standing up at a recent public meeting and pledging his “100 per cent support” for residents.

The finance and policy committee opted for Hart Smallholdings West, to the west of Hart village, as their preferred site with Hart Smallholdings East the back-up option.

Coun Beck said: “The reason I have not been available to comment is because I have been to support my family down in Witney, Oxfordshire. I lost my son Darren two years ago to cancer and have been to his graveside with my family.

“I am behind my residents on this issue, and when I spoke at the meeting on August 14 no mention was made of any call in decision.

“When I spoke out in support of my residents I was speaking of writing in to the planning inspector in the strongest possible terms to make my feelings clear on this disgraceful decision, and I did the following day, also I wrote to the leader of the council.

“When the time comes I will make my feelings very clear to Kevin Ward, the inspector, in person.

“If I had signed the call in decision it would not have made any difference whatsoever as the support would not have been there from the majority of councillors.”

Coun Beck said he stands by his comments at the meeting and said the residents won’t accept anything other than a reversal of the decision.

He added: “Since being elected to the Hart ward I have worked tirelessly to achieve leisure facilities such as the play area and neighbourhood park, the skate spot on Clavering, and been seen to be dealing with issues and not just seen at election times.”

Coun Beck said he has also been trying to help residents with sewage and flooding problems, attended all the Parish Council meetings, offered a new notice board for the east end of the village and supported Hart Primary with an outdoor learning project.

Coun Beck added: “So in answer to those who accuse me of not caring for my residents that is not the case.

“I will not be resigning but will continue on with the fight ahead with the gypsy site issue, and continue the vast amount of good work I do in the community.”

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher, who chaired the finance and policy committee, has previously said the site would only be developed if a demand was identified and said the decision was made after listening to all the evidence.

The calls for a review by the Putting Hartlepool First group needed support from 17 out of the 33 councillors but only 11 did, with no Labour or Conservative councillors backing the call-in.

That means the decision will not be referred to full council.

The other Hart ward councillor, independent councillor Keith Fisher, did support the referral.