Hart gypsy site referral quashed after not enough councillors back the idea – including two from the ward

HEATED DEBATE: The audience at the public meeting in Hart village
HEATED DEBATE: The audience at the public meeting in Hart village

THE decision to name Hart village as the preferred location for a permanent gypsy and traveller site will not be referred to full council after not enough councillors backed the idea – including two representing the ward.

Hart ward councillors Paul Beck and Jean Robinson, both Labour, did not back the referral bid although fellow Hart councillor Keith Fisher did.

Putting Hartlepool First councillors needed 17 out of the 33 councillors to support calls for a review of the decision 
by Hartlepool Borough Council’s finance and policy committee.

But only 11 did, with no Labour or Conservative councillors backing the call-in.

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.

Putting Hartlepool First councillor Geoff Lilley said: “I am disappointed.

“When you get situations like this, you need somebody impartial making the decisions and the whole shortlist should have gone before the planning inspector.

“If we had got enough support for a call in, that is what we would have put forward.

“We have done our best but it is down to the planning inspector now.”

Coun Lilley’s call received expressions of support from 10 councillors: Geoff Lilley, Alison Lilley, Kelly Atkinson, Keith Dawkins, Steve Gibbon, all of Putting Hartlepool First, plus independent councillors Cath Hill, John Lauderdale and Keith Fisher and Jonathan Brash and Pamela Hargreaves, who refer to themselves as independent Labour but are classed as independent by the council.

There was also an intimation of support from an 11th member, independent councillor Paul Thompson – but this was not confirmed within the necessary time period for expressions of support to be received.

Coun Lilley was on the finance and policy committee, as a substitute, on the day of the decision and said he questioned the decision to choose the Hart sites at the end of the meeting.

Coun Alison Lilley and Coun Hill were also on the committee that day.

But council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher said Coun Lilley cannot “re-write history” and said there was “no dissent” from any member of the committee regarding the two Hart sites being included for consideration.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “I welcome the conclusion.

“Some members may wish to re-write history when they agreed the allocation of sites and would question those members who failed to make representation at the time the decision was made at what was a public meeting.”

The council leader also confirmed to the Mail that Labour councillors had not been toldhow to vote.

Neither Coun Beck or Robinson were available for comment when contacted by the Mail.