Woodhall Spa Parish Council cleared in row over meetings

Woodhall Spa Parish Council has been cleared of any wrong-doing after being accused of holding private meetings with prospective housing developers in the village.

The accusation was made in a complaint by former parish councillor Graham Keegan to East Lindsey District 

Mr Keegan is a leading figure in the campaign to stop hundreds of homes being built in Woodhall Spa.

He claimed that the parish council had failed to record full minutes of meetings held with developers, including the individuals behind plans for up to 300 homes to the south of the village.

ELDC said it supports town and parish councils 
holding meetings with developers.

In a statement, the district council does advise town and parishes to make it clear about whether any ‘confidential information’ was discussed in meetings – but not logged in the actual minutes.

ELDC’s monitoring officer Alex Strickland said: “The parish council has acted appropriately in dealing with this matter, although it is acknowledged that the minutes of the meeting could have been more precise in logging that no confidential information was discussed at the meeting in question.

“It is entirely legitimate for developers to engage with a parish council, as was the case in Woodhall Spa.

“It is important that in having these discussions, that parish councils should at all times make clear that they are not taking the decision on planning applications and only have a role as a statutory consultee.

“Woodhall Spa Parish Council appears to have complied with these requirements, although given that perceptions in these matters are all important, it is entirely understandable why the issue was raised with me for further investigation.”

Mr Keegan said: “My complaint is that the parish council has had several private meetings with developers where only partial 
minutes are kept of the meeting.

“I am not suggesting that the parish council has made any underhand ‘deals’ with a developer but equally, having private partially-minuted meetings has left it open to be accused of such.

“This practice does not adhere to the standards of openness and transparency.”

The parish council said it welcomed the findings that it had acted appropriately.

It added: “Through its sponsorship of the Parish Plan, Village Design Statement and lately the Neighbourhood Development Plan, we have consistently sought to define and then protect the key characteristics of the village that attract people to 
choose to live here and to visit us.

“We are, however, powerless to over-ride the housing numbers and policies set out in the emerging ELDC Local Plan.”