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Council dispute over individual's action settled

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A Swaffham town councillor has insisted she did nothing wrong by supporting a planning application even though the authority objected to it.

Shirley Matthews defended her actions during a town council meeting yesterday after she had publicly supported a new Abel Homes development in the town earlier this month.

The scheme, which includes 160 homes and a 64-bed care home off Brandon Road, was opposed by the town council.

But Mrs Matthews went against the council’s stance by supporting it on the grounds of “going with the people rather than the environment” at a Breckland meeting.

She said: “For a newly-elected councillor of 20 days standing [deputy mayor Keith Sandle] to call my action ‘despicable’ was disrespectful, imprudent, irresponsible and totally disgraceful to which I took great exception.

“I was told I should listen to the people, and yes I did listen to those who benefit from it [the application]. I have the right to reiterate my opinion as a democratic responsibility.

“I hope we can draw a line under this rather large blip and a little bit more thoughtfulness and less aggression would be much appreciated.”

Shirley Matthews New Swaffham Mayor. (12302783)
Shirley Matthews New Swaffham Mayor. (12302783)

Les Scott, who chairs the town council planning committee, said he accepted it should not be personal, but felt Mrs Matthews’ letter should have been read out as a resident rather than as a town councillor.

He then proposed sending a letter of complaint to Breckland asking why the letter was read out earlier this month.

The proposal was seconded by Mrs Matthews, who said she had done “nothing wrong”, before being passed. Fellow Conservatives Paul Darby, Colin Houghton and Stewart Bell abstained.

Mrs Matthews said she had supported the application mainly from the point of view of elderly residents who would benefit from the site.

She added “It is a very good use of that bit of land. Anyone could do what I did. I did not eschew the process and I really think you are making assumptions that are not very nice.”

The town council opposed it because of fears over pollution and congestion.

Mr Sandle, who had previously suggested Mrs Matthews should “consider her position” said “There is no aggression. Even if I disagreed, I would not go against the town council as a personal point of view.”

Deputy mayor Keith Sandle, pictured right
Deputy mayor Keith Sandle, pictured right

Lindsay Beech said: “What is the point of having an election to be a town councillor when another councillor completely bypasses the whole system?”

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