Friday, May 18, 2012

Rosemary Dickson: misconduct

Rosemary Dickson (Tory)

An investigation will consider allegations of misconduct against a councillor in relation to the Cherkley Court planning application.

Earlier this month councillors granted planning permission for a private members' golf course and luxury hotel at the 19th century estate near Leatherhead.

But following a meeting of the standards committee of Mole Valley District Council, Councillor Rosemary Dickson (Con, Leatherhead South) will be investigated over claims she breached the council's code of conduct.

Council officers recommended refusal of the application, but Mrs Dickson proposed a motion to reject that recommendation at a meeting on April 4, then voted in favour of the final planning application on May 2.

A report from a meeting of the standards committee states: "The complainants allege that Councillor Dickson has breached the rules relating to the declaration of interests and that she was biased/predetermined."

The report, from a meeting on April 30, lists seven issues including: the fact Mrs Dickson's husband's second cousin Joel Cadbury is a director of developer Longshot; her relationship with Longshot's PR advisor Nick Kilby; and allegations of lobbying in favour of the plans.

It also notes that she tabled the motion to reject the advice of council officers; stated in an e-mail to Cherkley Campaign founder Kristina Kenworthy that she did not want to lose her right to vote; and did not fully represent her constituents' views.

A minor point was noted that she lives in Givons Grove, where the residents' company that owns the estate's roads has entered into contracts with Longshot.

The report adds: "When the seven separate complaints were taken as a whole, there was reasonable enough doubt to indicate misconduct and a breach of the council's code of conduct." Mrs Dickson, who retained her council seat at the elections on May 3 with an increased majority, refutes the claims.

She said: "I think it is absolutely appalling that people are able to throw out unfounded allegations without any proof or evidence and I have to go through this."

She said she has never spoken to Mr Cadbury, never overtly lobbied in favour of the application, her e-mail to Mrs Kenworthy was taken out of context and has represented the views of the "silent majority" of constituents.

She added: "I have said all along I didn't really mind about the votes so much, but I did mind very much about my reputation which is being dragged through the mud here."

The committee also considered several complaints about Councillor David Sharland (also Con, Leatherhead South) but decided not to investigate as, though he "demonstrated a predisposition towards the application", his views were not "predetermined".

People are being urged to demand an inquiry into the Cherkley Court application.

The National Planning Casework Unit is considering the issue.

The Cherkley Campaign, Mickleham Parish Council, Friends of Box Hill, Leatherhead Residents’ Association and the Campaign to Protect Rural England are asking residents to demand an inquiry.

The unit’s address is 5 St Philip’s Place, Colmore Row, Birmingham, B3 2PW, or e-mail

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