Farnham’s new boy didn’t waste a second of his first moments as a Waverley Councillor.
Just moments before Jerry Hyman’s debut on Tuesday following his recent by-election success council Leader Julie Potts almost choked as in a strangled voice she welcomed “the public…and, Mr Hyman.” Was there ever a new councillor more warmly welcomed?
As he was not a member of The Executive, Mr Hyman was given four minutes to pose a question to Waverley’s powerhouse on the subject of the council’s funding of a forthcoming Judicial Review of the controversial redevelopment of Farnham’s Brightwells/East Street.
Before making a decision later in the meeting to spend a large sum of money, he asked, on behalf of the people of Farnham, could he have some assurances and clarification should the Council lose the Court Case – as “it could cost the council ratepayers a mint.”
Could the estimated cost of £250,000 become half a million pounds?
What were Crest Nicholson’s costs? How would these be paid?
Was it possible – due to the legal action that Crest Nicholson would not contribute its £800,000 towards the redevelopment of the Farnham Memorial Hall?
Was there a maximum figure the Council was prepared to pay? What was the “worst case scenario?”
… and, based on its legal advice, did the Council believe it had a robust case to answer?
He said, Swindon Council wouldn’t defend a JR unless it had a 50 /50 chance of winning and did Waverley believe it had a better than even chance of winning? Because he believed the council had agreed in May, if it did not, it would not proceed. What was the council’s policy?
He believed starting work on the Memorial Hall could prejudice the Council’s case, and there would be little opportunity for backbench members to properly scrutinise the issues involved.
On numerous occasions Councillor Potts said the words – Let me make it “Crystal Clear.” Her starter for one was, – “let me make it crystal clear” that, “once again, that there has been a lot of scaremongering around Farnham about the Memorial Hall. The work has started, it will not prejudice the legal action and it will continue to provide a home for the Gostrey Centre with the approval of the centre trustees.”
There had been a lot of misinformation. – “and I want to make it crystal clear that we will be going ahead.”
She said Mr Hyman had asked a lot of legal questions, to which the borough solicitor should respond. Because, she said, “We need to make our position absolutely crystal clear.”
By this time every member of the Executive and ~Mr Hyman – and whoever was in the public gallery – was aware of just how crystal clear Waverley’s position was? Weren’t they?
But to make it “crystal clear” Gone to Potts said the committee would be asked to approve a first tranche of £20,000 plus another £230,000 for “external” legal costs.
Which presumably means that doesn’t include the council legal officers’ legal costs? But she didn’t actually make that – crystal clear. We digress!
She warned that nobody wins in any Judicial Review! “Only the lawyers get rich.”
“It is the residents who have decided to go to Judicial Review, preventing jobs, new homes, benefits etcetera…
“That this group wants to stop this – let’s make it crystal clear, they are stopping us bringing in £800/£900,000 in income for the use of residents across the borough. Unfortunately this group of Farnham people who have chosen to do this is very sad, because everyone will lose., when the majority of Farnham people want it to go ahead. And, we need the money, so we will be going ahead with the Judicial Review!”
The Council’s Solicitor Mr Bainbridge said there would be no claim for damages; costs rested with the council if it lost. Crest Nicholson, who was taking an active part, would bear its own costs.The percentage (50/50) prospect was not considered as he said: “We have no policy for that as it could prejudice the legal case” Were there planning matters outstanding, including leasehold matters? Yes
When Councillor Hyman asked if he could respond? The leader said quite simply – no you can not, wait for it, wait for it…she didn’t say she wanted to make it crystal clear. She just said an emphatic NO!
And the recommendation, after a short debate, was carried Unanimously.