Esher councillor stands down from planning committees after Telegraph sting
A councillor filmed by undercover reporters speaking about his influence in development decisions has stepped down from the council’s planning committees.
The video, filmed as part of an investigation by the Daily Telegraph, showed Esher ward councillor David Archer talking about ways to get ahead with planning decisions.
Councillors across the country have been trading on their inside knowledge of the planning system to receive fees of up to £20,000 for advice on how to get developments approved, it was reported.
Robert Moran, chief executive of Elmbridge Council, said: “Having reviewed the article in today’s Telegraph, I have made a formal complaint to the council’s monitoring officer asking him to consider an investigation into whether or not Coun Archer’s comments and actions amount to a breach of the members’ code of conduct.”
In the video, Coun Archer said although he had to follow rules on planning, there was “more than one way to skin a cat”.
Coun Archer said he could persuade councillors to back developments with trade-offs and said he knew “who the tree huggers are and who the thick idiots are”.
In response to the article, Coun Archer said: “The chief executive has informed me that he has lodged a complaint with the council’s monitoring officer about the comments I made that featured in today’s Telegraph.
“I welcome any investigation and the opportunity for me to explain the circumstances surrounding what I believed to be a private meeting. I look forward to being able to provide a fuller account of what I said.
“During this period I have agreed to step down from my positions on the planning committee and the east area planning sub-committee in order to allow a full investigation of the facts. I am confident that I will be exonerated on all counts.
“While clearly I was a little too eager to impress those present at the meeting, most of what I said about the planning process was factually accurate. The record will show that I always declare any interests I have in council business.
“I have never used my position as a councillor to influence the outcome of the planning process in Elmbridge and I regret that the edited version of a private conversation appears to give that impression.”
Councillor John O’Reilly, leader of Elmbridge Council, said: “I think that is the right way to proceed. It should be investigated if it is a breach of the members’ code.
“I think he has done the right thing by stepping down from the committees. We shall await the outcome of the proceedings.”