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Friday, 19 December 2014

Councillors investigated in zoo row

A ROW has broken out after a South Lakes Wild Animal Park manager complained about the conduct of two councillors.

The park’s marketing and development manager, Karen Brewer, has written to Barrow Borough Council’s standards committee, lodging a complaint about planning committee chairwoman, Councillor Ann Thomson, and planning member, Councillor Gordon Murray.

She complained about issues from a planning committee meeting on July 26 when the zoo’s expansion plans were being heard.

Miss Brewer, who attended the meeting, said she felt Cllr Thomas made comments of an inappropriate nature, before introducing and proposing a “minded to refuse” vote.

She claimed Cllr Thomson said the council had “trouble for 20 years” with zoo owner David Gill – the planning applicant, and that Mr Gill had previously not stuck to planning conditions.

Miss Brewer also claimed Cllr Murray had a predetermined intention to vote in a particular way before the meeting because of his preparation, saying he had a document which he read from directly to the committee with his decision.

During the authority’s full council meeting this week it was confirmed there was a standards committee investigation involving the zoo’s application.

At the meeting on Tuesday, Conservative Councillor Ray Guselli and Councillor Ken Williams asked questions related to Labour councillors Cllr Thomas and Cllr Murray and the planning meeting.

But Ola Oduwole, the council’s director of corporate service and monitoring officer, stepped in to advise the councillors not to discuss the matter.

He said: “Some of the matters are the subject of an ongoing standards committee investigation.”

Mr Oduwole first interjected when Cllr Ray Guselli questioned Cllr Thomson.

Cllr Ken Williams asked what the public perception was of Cllr Murray being part of the planning decisions on the zoo when there was a “high-profile hostility’ between the applicant and Cllr Murray.”

Council leader Dave Pidduck of Labour said: “I am appalled at how the opposition is using this. Should these Tory members declare an interest as Mr Gill was a former chairman of their party?”

Cllr Thomson stood up holding a piece of paper and said she had received a letter about the standards committee and said it was a “confidential matter” that should not have been heard in this meeting.

She said: “It has cast the whole of that investigation into disrepute because it has gone before the press and public. I’m innocent of all this.”

When approached by the Evening Mail, Cllr Thomson and Cllr Murray declined to comment.

Mr Oduwole said he could not give details about the standards committee investigation.

Cllr Pidduck said it had been wrong for the Conservative councillors to raise these matters in the meeting and said if they had issues with other councillors then they should have raised it with the standards committee.

Cllr Guselli said the councillors who asked questions had not mentioned an investigation and they were defending the planning process, not Mr Gill. He said they were just asking if such comments had been made or not.

Cllr Guselli said: “It was the first time we have had official notification that there is a standards committee investigation.”

Miss Brewer said: “I have on behalf of South Lakes Wild Animal Park Ltd made a complaint to the council’s standards committee about two members of the planning committee, Cllr Ann Thomson and Cllr Gordon Murray, following the planning meeting on July 26.

“When any member of the public submits a planning application for consideration they expect it to be dealt with in a proper manner, councillors have a duty to the whole community.”

Miss Brewer said the issues caused “great concern as applicants”, and felt the actions were “in breach of the standards, and perhaps an abuse of power”.

l The decision on the zoo’s planning application is to be made by the Planning Inspectorate as Mr Gill appealed due to the delay in a decision over the proposed extension.

At the July meeting, the planning committee members said they were minded to refuse plans due to safety fears over the proposed entrance off the A590 and over-development of the countryside.

Have your say

RE:Barry Jaqcuzzi...the council actually have to take in to account current planning laws & legislations not just what people want or we would have people building things without permission.....OH wait a minute isnt that what David Gill does anyway!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Mr Know It All on 17 October 2011 at 17:08

A massive well done to Karen Brewer who works for south lakes wild animal park for sticking up to Barrow borough Councillors Gordon Murray and Ann Thomson it's about time they both resigned and the Council allowed David Gill to continue his fabulous work for the park and area. I would also like to add that the Council not backing South Lakes Wild animal park are either narrow minded old farts or clearly stupid to not encourage the tourism of the area and regeneration, maybe you all need to retire and let new young, blood with vision on the council.

Posted by Sharon Longmire on 16 October 2011 at 15:40

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