EXCLUSIVE: E-mails released by top Tories reveal how homes plan was forced through

Stop secrets
Stop secrets

Extensive coverage in tomorrow’s County Times newspaper reveals the extent to which plans for massive housing in North Horsham were forced through.

Senior Conservatives have released e-mails written by Horsham District Council leader Ray Dawe and his deputy Helena Croft relating to the contentious vote last July.

In one, Mr Dawe tells a colleague who opposed the plan: “This is a delicate message but one I feel I must put to you. My understanding both at and following our last group meeting was that as group protocol does not permit a member who disagrees with a group resolution to vote against (only abstain), you would not be coming to the council meeting next week. Claire [Vickers] now tells me that you are intending to come and vote against! ... I know this is not easy for you and we have discussed the matter but I am certainly happy to talk again.”

In another, Mrs Croft wrote: “The leader at the meeting in June, made an exception to the Group rules in allowing members to speak against this publicly if they so chose, whilst also making clear that at the vote at Council, in line with Group rules, members would not vote against a Group decision but abstain. This was clearly upheld by the Group this evening, and I trust you will uphold this democratic process on Thursday [July 25].”

Private and confidential minutes of secret group meetings where the plans were privately agreed made clear voting against the plan was not an option - unless Tory councillors ‘accept that group disciplinary proceedings will immediately follow.’

Meanwhile, Mr Dawe maintains publicly that his Conservative group is not subject to a whip.

On Apri 30, Horsham District Council will vote finally on the contentious plans.

In tomorrow’s paper, Conservative vice chairman Christian Mitchell - who is also a barrister at law - explains why a vote that is subject to sanctions is regarded as ‘whipped’ and consequently unsafe at any public inquiry.

In a full page article he looks at the implications of his council’s actions in the past year in the context of legal precedent.

Meanwhile, as the ruling Tory group issues a statement on its ethics and free speech, leader Ray Dawe answers our questions - making clear that it is business as usual.

If you care about local democracy, free speech, and massive development in the town - don’t miss tomorrow’s paper.