Chaos as planning row sees Pendle Council meeting descend into farce

A fresh row has broken out at Pendle Council between the Conservatives and the Labour and Liberal Democrat opposition as the third full council meeting in a row descended into chaos.

The heated debate, which saw several councillors walk out, again centred on potential changes to the way the council deals with planning applications.

The Tory administration, which wants to centralise responsibilty for planning applications away from area committees, accused their opponents of trying to bring a motion to stop the leader from speaking, before walking out to avoid a vote the Conservatives believe they would have won.

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Council leader, Coun. Nadeem Ahmed, said: “Before last night’s meeting was ended so disgracefully by the Labour Mayor, who colluded with his colleagues to do so, members of the public waiting to hear their planning cases determined in a marathon sitting were subjected to an unacceptable one-hour adjournment.

Nelson Town Hall. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

“So-called Independent, Coun. Mohammed Iqbal (currently suspended by the Labour Party), was heard to advise the Mayor that he should take legal advice in his parlour.

"What then unfolded was a wholly unacceptable sub-meeting of council officers, Couns David Whipp, Zafar Ali and Mohammed Iqbal, who was specifically invited by the Mayor, and myself. Not only was I, the leader of the Council, massively outnumbered, but the Coalition Opposition then used this time to explore the best means of overcoming the fact that the Conservatives held a majority of two, with Labour councillors abroad. The whole thing was outrageously undemocratic.”

In response, Coun. Iqbal, the former Labour leader, said that “the behaviour of senior Tory councillors left democratic accountability and transparency at a all time low in Pendle.”

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He added: “An attempt in May and subsequent council meetings by Pendle Conservatives to stifle local councillors deciding planning matters failed due to their inability to persuade a majority of councillors to support their ludicrous proposal.

“At the latest extraordinary meeting on Tuesday, they forced some of their own members who were unwell to come in to try and push through their plan but ironically they fell on their own sword and failed to get through their plan yet again.

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"I tried during an adjournment to persuade all groups to work together but the Tory leadership refused to consider any proposal to resolve this impasse.”