Taliban slur as Local Plan is approved
Stafford Borough Council voted to approve the Local Plan at a meeting last night – including an amendment that states that Stone needs a new supermarket by 2015. However, the meeting was overshadowed by Cllr Philip Jones calling Keep Westbridge Park Green campaigners Cllr Jill Hood and Cllr Rob Kenney “the Taliban of Stone”.
Jill Hood, independent town and borough councillor, spoke against the supermarket amendment at the meeting. She said: “The study that’s referred to only takes into account 119 telephone interviews and is flawed. By adding the amendment Stafford Borough Council is actively encouraging a supermarket development on Westbridge Park. By including the sentence the Borough Council are giving legal validation that another supermarket should be built. It’s not up to Stafford Borough Council to encourage supermarkets to Stone. It’s up to the supermarkets themselves to put forward their own proposals.”
Councillors were asked to vote ‘for’ to add the supermarket amendment to the Local Plan, or to vote ‘against’ to have it removed. A majority of councillors voted to include the supermarket amendment.
This is how Stone’s borough councillors voted:
Jill Hood (Independent) – AGAINST
Philip Leason (Independent) – AGAINST
Joyce Farnham (Con) – FOR
Mike Williamson (Con) – FOR
Margaret Goodall (Con) – FOR
Philip Jones (Con) – FOR
Geoff Collier (Con) – ABSTAINED
The Local Plan as a whole – the document that sets out the planning framework for the borough for the next 20 years and identifies Westbridge Park as a site for mixed-use development – was approved by the Council. Now that has happened it will go before Government inspectors at a public examination next summer. Keep Westbridge Park Green campaigners now say they will mount a campaign
During the fiery debate at last night’s meeting, Cllr Jones said that Jill Hood and Rob Kenney are “the Taliban of Stone” and that they were dictating to the people of Stone what they could and couldn’t have.
Referring to Cllr Jones’s remark, Jill Hood said this morning: “At last night’s meeting we discussed how thrilled we were at The Staffords being able to retain their regiment’s name in the new Mercia Regiment. These brave boys have fought and will fight again in a terrible war in Afghanistan. How insensitive of Councillor Jones straight after to refer to me and Rob Kenney as Taliban. I found it disgusting and I will be writing to the chief executive to ask for this to be removed from the record and for Cllr Jones to make an apology.”
Town councillor Rob Kenney was in the public gallery. He said after the meeting: “Tonight he insulted not only me and Jill Hood by calling us Taliban but he also insulted the troops that have given their all to fight in Afghanistan. He thinks using the word Taliban in a jovial joking way is OK or even the norm. How wrong can he be? Many families have lost loved ones at the hands of the Taliban. I‘m sure they don’t think that the Taliban are a joke.”
Dozens of people have criticised Cllr Jones’s comment on the Little Bit of Stone Facebook page. Many say they have emailed Cllr Jones to complain about his comment directly.
Cllr Jones issued this statement today, which is printed here in full:
First of all I have made it plain to the Leader of Stafford Borough Council, on three occasions, that I will not support a proposal for a supermarket on Westbridge Park. Not only will I not support it, I will vote against it.
The Kenney/Hood petition says “We do not want retail or housing development to be built on Westbridge Park” and this is what 4,000 people signed up to. The reference to housing, incidentally, was unnecessary as this has never been proposed. But Messrs Kenney and Hood then went much further and, I quote from his published remarks – Councillor Rob Kenney, who started the petition, said: ”We do not want any sort of development on the site.” I don’t think the 4,000 people signed up to that.
What, no proper play area for the 2,781 children under the age of 14 where mums can sit with a coffee from a kiosk as they can in Victoria Park, Stafford? What, no modern health centre even though both doctors’ practices have expressed in interest in moving into one and have identified Westbridge Park as the only location acceptable to them and accessible for their patients? We have in Stone 4,497 over-60s (1,917 in Cllr Hood’s Walton ward). Are they not entitled to all the services ancillary to medicine that a modern health centre can offer?
Last night I asked the Leader of the Council, and he agreed, that there should be in Stone a full, comprehensive public consultation where the Council’s plans in full with all the implications for Westbridge Park can be seen and that the wishes of the people of Stone should be respected. The consultation starts in January and the results will be known at the end of February. All those who put their trust in democracy will wait and listen to the voice of the people and not tell them now what they shall not have.”
Click the LOCAL PLAN tag below to see all our coverage of the Local Plan / Westbridge Park issue from the last few weeks.