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Tory Leader of Wokingham District Council Reported to Standards Board for England

June 4, 2004 12:00 AM

The Standards Board for England will be investigating Councillor Frank Browne (Tory leader of Wokingham District Council) following an incident at the Development Control Committee at the Council offices at Shute End on 21st April.

Councillor Denis Thair (Lib Dem Councillor for Loddon ward) said, "I went to the Development Control meeting that night because a planning application on behalf of Wokingham District Council to build houses on the land at the old South Lake school site was being discussed. I was there to put the residents' case for the school recreation field to be retained for open space and community use. I've been campaigning with the residents for this for many months.

"Although he is not a member of the Development Control committee, Frank Browne joined the committee and sat opposite the Tory Chairman, Councillor Angus Ross.

"Lib Dem Councillor Jenny Lissaman proposed that the recreation field be kept intact, which meant that housing would be confined to the remainder of the site.

Following a meeting at the site, the Tories had appeared very sympathetic to Jenny's proposal, so we were all very surprised when the Chairman suddenly ruled that there would be no discussion allowed on this.

"The reason for the Chairman's totally unreasonable behaviour became clear when my colleague, Lib Dem Councillor Prue Bray, saw Frank Browne making clear signals to Angus Ross in an attempt to influence the way the Chairman conducted the meeting.

"Frank Browne is aiming to sell off £50 million worth of public land and property to the highest bidder to fill the Council coffers, without any thought for the needs of the local communities concerned. The last thing we want is for this land to be covered with housing, but the Tory-controlled committee gave planning permission for the whole site to be developed.

"As Wokingham District Council owns the site in question, I believe the Leader of the Council should not have been at that meeting, let alone influencing the decision of the committee. In fact I feel so strongly about his behaviour that I've reported him to the Standards Committee of England."

The Standards Committee of England is responsible for promoting high ethical standards in local authorities, and investigating allegations that Members' behaviour may not be of the required standards.

The South Lake School site became available for sale when the junior and infant schools were amalgamated.