Following your front page story (Banbury Guardian, June 6) I felt I should clarify a few important facts about the judicial review process in respect of the Banbury Gateway project and reiterate the importance of the investment and jobs it will bring to the town.
The judicial review process is a part of all planning applications. However, it’s important to understand that it cannot challenge the decision itself, but instead tries to find a legal loophole in the process by which the council arrived at the decision. In this case Scottish Widows and Aegon, both huge multi-national companies with billions of pounds of property investments, are trying to overturn the decision reached by the democratically-elected local council planning committee, when they approved the Banbury Gateway development last March.
I’m very confident that Cherwell District Council has followed the legal process correctly.
Despite this, the local council is now put in a position where it must prepare and finance a time consuming and costly legal defence of its decision in the High Court in London this November against a team of lawyers representing these two enormous investment companies.
Whatever your opinion on the development (and the extensive public consultation showed the vast majority of local people were in favour), the council had many months to evaluate all the facts about the proposals as well as public opinion. After this extensive process, they made an informed decision to approve the plans as they came to the conclusion that the development was in the best interests of the local community.
The Banbury Gateway and Prodrive’s subsequent relocation to larger premises in the town will create hundreds of new jobs and secure even more.
Your piece on Georgia Geary (Banbury Guardian June 6), the new manager at the Mill Arts Centre, Banbury, is most welcome and I wish her well in her new post.
Her vision of enabling The Mill to build on its commercial success while maintaining a strong community focus is the right one.
I am pleased to read that a new users’ forum is proposed. However, I remain concerned that the new governing body of the Mill, the Mill Arts Association, is an unincorporated association not registered as a charity, where business is done in secret and which is not democratically accountable to local people.
The proposed users’ forum would not deliver any real accountability unless the users were also voting members of the association who could democratically elect the officers of the governing body.
This is the model for many social enterprises today.
Together with other Banbury county councillors who share my concerns I will be calling on Oxfordshire County Council together with The Mill Arts Association and Cherwell District Council to undertake a public consultation on the way the Mill is managed, to enable it to become accountable to local people.
The consultation should also include the future development of the Mill as part of the regeneration of Canalside. This regeneration needs to be brought forward and not left as a distant possibility for the mid 2020s.
County Councillor for Ruscote
More letters in this week’s Banbury Guradian.