Fury at gypsies vote

The proposed site.
The proposed site.

Questions should be asked why a councillor who had the power to stop controversial plans for a new travellers’ site next to the A16 in Spalding remained silent and did not vote.

This is the view of a Cowbit resident who has already spoken to the Local Government Ombudsmen and is considering making official complaints to South Holland District Council against Cowbit ward member Coun Anthony Casson and planning committee chairman Coun Roger Gambba-Jones.

Villagers in Cowbit have been fighting the plan for land off Drain Bank North to replace an illegal site in Gosberton Clough, fearing the impact the travellers would have on their homes.

The gallery at South Holland District Council on Wednesday was packed for the final decision.

Resident Jason Johnson said Coun Casson had attended a public meeting and was well aware of their views. He said: “Villagers have been terribly let down by Coun Casson.

“He had a duty to speak on behalf of the residents even if he felt he could not vote – not to sit on his hands and say nothing. I will be putting in an official complaint against him and Coun Gambba-Jones for not allowing a fair democratic debate.”

Mr Johnson’s father, Coun Howard Johnson, has also been left fuming after councillors voted six in favour and six against and Coun Gambba-Jones had to give a casting vote to finally push the plan through.

Coun Johnson said: “If Coun Casson couldn’t vote for whatever reason he should have been substituted so the residents of Cowbit who are against this could have been properly represented. There were six votes for and six against. He could have stopped this.”

The gallery had watched Coun Howard Johnson remain defiant throughout discussions, siting flood risk and the busy A16 as two of his main reasons why the plan should be thrown out.

He said: “The clue is in the name – Clay Lake, bank (to keep in water). Lessons should have been learned from Somerset levels.

“Added to this there will be children on cycles and parents in vehicles going to school straight out onto a busy road with massive HGVs. It’s an accident waiting to happen.

“I could not vote for this and then down the line have a life on my conscience, it’s madness.”

Coun Casson has confirmed that he was entirely against the plan and would have voted against it, which would have meant it would not have been passed.

He asked the Free Press to clarify his reasons at the end of the meeting. He said: “I’m completely against the plan and in support of the objectors’ views.

“But as a councillor I am duty bound to attend meetings with an open mind and, as such, took legal advice and was advised not to speak or vote.”

Leader of the council Coun Gary Porter sat with councillors representing the St Mary’s ward, but was not allowed to vote. He said: “The people who voted for me are entitled to have me represent their views and they do have some legitimate concerns.”