The row over plans for 260 homes at Reading Golf Club (RGC) has led to a formal complaint being made about a councillor opposing the scheme.
Reading Borough Council has dismissed a complaint that Peppard ward councillor Clare Grashoff had a potential conflict of interest and abused her position as a councillor over her opposition to the development.
The club says she had not disclosed her father-in-law’s ownership of a house overlooking the golf course.
RGC’s complaint to the council stated: “From reading your rules on what councillors can and cannot do regarding planning applications, it is clear that she is using the status of her public office in order to benefit her direct family, namely her father in law and husband, most specifically their million pound home which is situated right next to Reading Golf Club.”
The letter, addressed to the monitoring officer, states the club believes Cllr Grashoff is in breach of the expected conduct of a councillor.
Both the council and Cllr Grashoff have now issued statements.
Cllr Grashoff’s statement says the accusation suggested she would gain from house prices dropping in the area as a result of the development.
The statement goes on: “Everyone has a right to make a formal complaint against a councillor if they think there is wrongdoing and I respect that democratic right.
“However, what has been more worrying and distressing is that it has become clear that the same unfounded rumour has been promulgated to members of the community, members of the golf club and passed to The Henley Standard.
“Given the outlandishness of the accusations I can only surmise this has been done with the sole purpose of doing serious damage to my reputation. What is particularly galling is that, while I stand to make absolutely nothing either way, those accusing me stand to make potentially huge, personal, financial gain.
“Whilst I am a public figure I am also a mum and a member of the local community and the circulation of an unsubstantiated, vexatious, allegation has been particularly frustrating.”
The council’s statement says: “The council’s monitoring officer has considered the detail of this complaint against Cllr Grashoff and can confirm that no further action is required.
“In examining the complaint, Cllr Grashoff’s long-standing opposition to large scale developments in her ward was considered, as was the key role ward councillors play on campaigning on matters of local concern. She additionally has no direct financial interest in the golf club or properties adjacent to the golf club.
“The complainant has been written to and informed of the monitoring officer’s decision.”
RGC general manager Gary Stangoe told Thames Tap: “As the councillor herself has said, Reading Golf Club was perfectly within its rights to raise its concerns with the council’s monitoring officer over any potential conflict of interest that may exist.
“As such, the club’s letter to the council, with the facts it outlined, spoke for itself. The club will therefore not be adding anything further to it.”
Cllr Grashoff’s statement is published in full below:
“Last week a serious allegation was made against me to the Council, by Reading Golf Club, in relation to my decision to oppose the outline planning application submitted by Reading Golf Club/Fairfax. The complaint stated that I had broken the Councillor Code of Conduct because I somehow stood to make a financial gain if the development didn’t go ahead.
‘This seemed to be based on house prices dropping in the area as a result of the development. The complaint was quickly investigated by the Monitoring Officer of Reading Borough Council and was immediately dismissed. Indeed it was rather confusing that the golf club seemed to be making accusations based on the fact that their development might have a negative effect on house prices. To me this seems like a very strange stance for a business to take who are currently trying to get planning permission for said development. One wonders whether they don’t have much faith in their own plans.
“Everyone has a right to make a formal complaint against a Councillor if they think there is wrongdoing and I respect that democratic right. However what has been more worrying and distressing is that it has become clear that the same unfounded rumour has been promulgated to members of the community, members of the golf club and passed to The Henley Standard.
“Given the outlandishness of the accusations I can only surmise this has been done with the sole purpose of doing serious damage to my reputation. What is particularly galling is that, while I stand to make absolutely nothing either way, those accusing me stand to make potentially huge, personal, financial gain. Whilst I am a public figure I am also a mum and a member of the local community and the circulation of an unsubstantiated, vexatious, allegation has been particularly frustrating.
“Many of you will know that I worked for 2 years with the action group CAGE, campaigning against the Gladman development on the edge of Emmer Green because my residents were so concerned about the detrimental effect it would have on our services and infrastructure. I spoke out against it regularly at SODC and RBC committee meetings, in meetings with Councillors and officers, on the radio and in the press and at the planning appeal in May 2018.
“The development on the golf course poses many of same threats to the community except that this development is even larger and its effect could be compounded by further development on the SODC side of the course in the future. There is a wealth of evidence which proves the huge amount of public opposition to this situation and this has been the case since 2018 when I personally forwarded at least 100 objections to the planning department, written to me by angry residents, in relation to the golf course’s allocation in the Reading Local Plan (CA1b).
“It is entirely proper for a local Councillor to represent their residents in matters of such grave concern. Indeed because my 2 colleagues, who are also Emmer Green Councillors, sit on the planning committee they are required to remain neutral so I am the only Councillor in this Ward who can represent your views. It would be incorrect for me not to take a view and I will not be bullied or threatened into not doing so.
“To be clear my reasons for campaigning against this development are: the obvious and wide spread opposition to it expressed by residents of Peppard Ward; the implications of future development on the SODC side of the course for Emmer Green and Reading as a whole; it is my opinion that a development of this scale is unsustainable for our community. These reasons are exactly the same as those I expressed in opposition to the Gladman development. My stance has remained entirely consistent.
“The community have done a really quite remarkable job at coming together and fighting this application. I don’t think the Council have ever seen anything quite like it. I don’t know what the result will be when it finally goes to the Planning Applications Committee but what cannot be doubted is the passion and commitment that you have demonstrated and I am in awe of the work that has gone into this campaign by all of you. Well done and make sure that your views are heard.”
© Thames Tap No 227 (powered by ukpropertyforums.com).
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