A U-TURN by Stratford District Council has given campaigners fighting to ease the impact of the Redditch Eastern Gateway a chance to field their own candidate to chair their Steering Group meetings.
At the first meeting of the group, set up to address the concerns local residents and neighbouring organisations have about the industrial development, Dr Ken Pollock was appointed chair, without being elected.
Dr Pollock is a controversial figure – he not only chairs the board looking to drive the development through but is the portfolio holder for infrastructure on Worcestershire County Council and is on the record as describing the Redditch Eastern Gateway as a ‘game-changer’ for the county.
To the anger of local residents and representatives at the inaugural meeting Dr Pollock, who lives in Cheltenham and represents Tenbury, also appeared to dismiss the genuine concerns of those who would have the Eastern Gateway on their doorstep, something for which he has since apologised for.
However after Winyates Green resident Len Quartly raised the issue of replacing the chair at the last meeting of Stratford District Council ‘selection of a steering group chairman’ was made the first item on the agenda of the next Steering Group meeting.
Councillor Daren Pemberton (Con, Bidford East) the portfolio holder for planning and building services and the man responsible for setting up the Steering Group said he had spoken to Dr Pollock about his handling of the first meeting.
“I do not think there is a conflict of interest – what we wanted was someone who could chair a meeting,” he said.
“However we want to make sure that this is a collaborative process, we don’t want to impose anything on anyone and if anyone from the group wants to put themselves forward then that is fine.”
The change of heart comes while local residents are still waiting for news of and a site visit to Leicestershire where an HGV routing strategy, similar to the one planned at the Eastern Gateway, has been introduced.
“We have been told this scheme is up and running and I have asked three times now for information on it and a site visit we can make an informed decision on its effectiveness, however we have heard nothing,” said Maureen Berry, a governor at Mappleborough Green Primary School.
“As for who chairs the meetings I was in despair after the first one. Why can’t someone independent be chair? All we want is a fair hearing.”
The Steering Group is due to meet tonight, Thursday, November 8 in Stratford.