A STUDENT village opponent is calling for greater openness after he had to discover all the council leader’s interests in the project from a Freedom of Information response.
Andy Scargill, of Parkgate Highfield Residents group, opposes Bell Development’s plans for a 2,500-bed student village on green belt between Blacon and Mollington.
Last January he wrote concerning the village to council leader Mike Jones who revealed he had ‘a prejudicial interest on four counts’ regarding the project but didn’t outline them.
So Mr Scargill was surprised when he only declared a personal interest, namely that his father lived in a student area, when he spoke in favour of a student village at a council debate prompted by two petitions including one which cited specific details of the Bell project.
Cllr Jones subsequently told Mr Scargill that two of his four prejudicial interests were his daughter’s employment with the Bells and his father’s residency in the Garden Quarter.
“I responded the same day expressing surprise that he had not divulged the nature of the other two conflicts and suggesting he should do so without me needing to ask under the Freedom of Information (FOI) regulations,” said Mr Scargill.
Later the FOI team responded to confirm Cllr Jones’ other two interests ‘are a business relationship with Bell Developments and his long-term friendship with the family’.
Council spokesman Ian Callister said Cllr Jones correctly declared a ‘personal interest’ before the debate ‘on the principle of student villages’.
Four months earlier at executive he had made clear that if a planning application ever came before the authority he would declare a prejudicial interest on grounds his daughter worked for Bell and his friendship with the company principals.
Mr Callister added: “Cllr Jones is explicit in his letter to Mr Scargill dated January 31, 2011, in which he says: ‘However, on a personal basis I will not get involved as the leader of the council as I have a prejudicial interest on four counts and, if discussed at a meeting, will comply with the rules immediately’.”