A COUNCILLOR is tonight expected to be banned from taking part in a group to shape the future of new housing in the borough, because his house is next to a major development site.
Simon Hart, Tory Castle Point councillor for Victoria ward, was selected last month as one of ten members of a task and finish group, which is developing a draft local plan for the borough over the next 20 years.
Castle Point Council’s local plan sets out where 4,000 homes will be built in the borough by 2031.
However, Mr Hart has been warned he should not have accepted the role and instead should have declared an interest and stepped aside when the appointments were made by the cabinet last month.
Speaking to the Echo, Mr Hart said he is planning to resign, but disagrees with the council’s position.
He said: “I am in dispute over the situation I am in, but I am going to make a statement at full council saying I am resigning my position on the task and finish group as a member, purely as it does not alter any of the work the task and finish group could produce and could bring council into disrepute if I did not.
“But I am going to finish my dispute to try to get local councillors to be able to represent their residents. It should be down to a councillor to make their own decision on interests and it does not just affect me, but other members.”
The row stems from Mr Hart previously declaring an interest during a vote on the plan. He made councillors aware his home in Daws Heath Road was next to 72-acres of green belt, which has been earmarked for 430 homes, and then took no part in the meeting.
The land east of Rayleigh Road is one of 13 key sites in the local plan.
A council report ahead of tonight’s full council meeting said: “Following the (cabinet) meeting attention was drawn to the nomination of councillor Hart to serve on the task and finish group. For the reasons under the legal implications of this report councillor Hart is not eligible to serve on the task and finish group.
“Members who have disclosable pecuniary interests are unable to be member of or take part in the deliberations of the group on the new local plan.”
There is further concern that as founder supporter of the Save Our Green Belt Group, members of the public would believe this would prejudice his judgment during the discussions.
The report reminded councillors it is a criminal offence to fail to disclose interests and take part in votes they should be disbarred from, with a maximum fine of £5,000 and a possible fiveyear ban from being a member.
The council will now hold a meeting with Mr Hart to “discuss this appointment and his disclosable pecuniary interest arising from his home address adjoining a housing site at land east of Rayleigh Road.” Council monitoring officer AndrewRoby- Smith told the Echo: “It has been made clear to councillor Hart his disclosable interest means he is not able to take part in this committee.”