Councillor against building 125 social houses on controversial park actually voted in favour of it previously

"Yes I voted for the forward plan [Local Plan Part Two] but I didn't realise that there were proposals in it to sell off green spaces in my ward."

Friday, 30th July 2021, 7:45 am
Updated Friday, 30th July 2021, 10:54 am
Councillor Dennis Meredith of the Talavera ward voted in favour of building on a green space in his ward but says he was 'not aware of the intentions' of the plans

A Northampton councillor has admitted he voted in favour of building houses on a popular park in his ward despite recently championing a petition to not build homes on the site.

The Liberal Democrat councillor of the Talavera ward, Dennis Meredith, voted in favour of West Northamptonshire Council's Local Plan Part Two back in January of this year.

Within the plan, Fraser Road Park, in Thorplands, has been earmarked as a potential site for Northampton Partnership Homes (NPH) to build 125 social houses, much to the dismay of local residents.

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Cllr Meredith has this week featured in the Chronicle and Echo championing a petition created by Thorplands residents to 'stop the bulldozers and save the park', which has gained around 500 signatures.

However, it was brought to this newspaper's attention by the Conservative councillor for Rectory Farm, James Hill, that Cllr Meredith actually voted in favour of building on the land back in January.

Cllr Meredith said: "Yes I voted for the forward plan [Local Plan Part Two] but I didn't realise that there were proposals in it to sell off green spaces in my ward. If I had known that then I would not have voted for it.

"We get lots and lots of issues that we read and, sometimes, it does not come clear to you the intention of the administration. If I did vote for it, it was not my intention for them to build houses on green spaces."

Cllr Meredith was asked if he had made a mistake, to which he replied saying he had not.

The Lib Dem councillor added: "In the past, I have been very supportive of NPH in its endeavours to improve the areas of my ward. I have gone on record saying I am in favour of new houses being built.

"This will come back on them [Conservatives]. The residents think a lot of me and they know I would never vote for anything detrimental for my ward.

"It's really terrible to discredit a councillor who has always put his ward first. It's really just skulduggery."

Cllr James Hill responded to Cllr Meredith by saying he 'just wants councillors to be accountable'.

"I am pleased he acknowledges he voted for it. For the Local Plan Part Two we had a cross party group and, basically, that meant every two months we would discuss the key things that were happening, and sites were a key part of that process.

"This is a big site, 125 homes, so it surprised me that the local councillors have not raised issues about it before.

"Residents should be expecting their councillors, as a minimum, to check what sites in their ward are allocated in the plan.

"Cllr Meredith's decision was recently, not from five years ago. I just think councillors try to be populist, but they have got to be accountable for that," Cllr Hill said.

The Rectory Farm councillor went on to address the concerns of the Thorplands residents.

He tweeted saying: "I attended a public consultation event on the proposed housing development near Fraser Road [on Thursday, July 29]. It is clear there a number of concerns from local residents about the proposal. I will taking these issues to both NPH and WestNorthants Council.

"I am not dismissing residents' concerns but a lot more could have been done prior to this. It's like trying to shut the door after the horse has bolted."

Cllr Rebecca Breese, West Northamptonshire Council Cabinet Member for Planning, Built Environment and Rural Affairs, said: “This proposal will require planning permission, so we expect it to be considered by our Northampton Area Planning Committee in due course.

“This piece of land is identified for new housing development by the Northampton Local Plan, and considerable engagement was undertaken during the plan preparation in the local area, in particular with ward councillors who then went on to vote through the Local Plan, including this site, and without any comment.”