Curtis quits as chairman of Fenland Council Planning Committee following leadership change

By John Elworthy THE chairman of Fenland District Council has quit rather than wait to be replaced following the leadership change at Fenland Hall. Councillor Martin Curtis said that he resigned bearing in mind the new leader s wish that he did not wan

By John Elworthy

THE chairman of Fenland District Council has quit rather than wait to be replaced following the leadership change at Fenland Hall.

Councillor Martin Curtis said that he resigned "bearing in mind the new leader's wish that he did not want councillors having responsibilities at Fenland Hall when they have major roles at the county council.

"I felt that the best decision was to go now so he could appoint a new chairman sooner rather than later".

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Council Leader Alan Melton paid tribute to the work of Cllr Curtis over recent years and said he would announce, soon, the name of his successor.

Cllr Curtis, said: "It was not a decision that I took lightly, but I have a number of really important things coming up - such as the need to focus on finishing my degree (I have four months left), the General Election and my role at county council which is going to take up increasing amounts of time.

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"In light of this I did not feel I could give sufficient time to a number of serious planning issues that are on the near horizon."

Cllr Curtis added: "Please don't read anything else into my decision - these are the reasons"

He said he was proud of his record over the past six years and felt planning committees "need a chairman who is robust and I believe, when it has been needed, I have been exactly that, but when it has been needed I have also been robust and challenging behind the scenes.

"My approach has seen an increase in performance, a user satisfaction rating of 70 per cent and increasingly higher quality presentations at committee - something that has aided decision making.

"I am also proud of the role I played in initiating the Fenland Design awards, which recognises the many positive aspects of planning which often gets lost amongst the controversy which inevitably fills up most of the media time with planning.

"I am sure that there are those who will challenge these comments - largely because they haven't liked particular decisions or my role in those decisions and I respect that - it is an inevitable aspect of planning. It is a system that can be hard on a Councillor, almost every decision has a loser and that means, inevitably, that people do get upset - something that goes against the grain.

"That has been made all the worse as the Government has become all the more controlling - where the rules that have to be followed become all the more uncomfortable, but where defying those rules does not change the outcome, but gives false hope, delays the inevitable and potentially adds significant cost to the Council.

"I have always tried to provide guidance based on that thinking - something that has not been easy and has meant that, at times, I have had to be tough (but actually any Councillor worth his salt has to be tough at times).

"That said, I increasingly look forward to the post-election scenario; the Conservatives have pledged to get rid of the top-down approach to planning, in particular I look forward to garden grabbing becoming a thing of the past and to the power of the Planning Inspectorate being reduced."

Cllr Curtis added: "One benefit of standing down as chairman is that I will not have the limitations placed on me when discussing planning issues, it means I will be freer to speak my mind on particular applications, and I will."

Cllr Curtis is currently Cabinet member for Young People at Cambridgeshire County Council and is also a Parliamentary candidate in Nottingham for the Conservatives.

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