Harrow planning committee chairmanship in turmoil

20210128_153636Highly concerning that Harrow council planning committee, in many ways the public face of decision making, has leadership instability and has no substantial chairman in post at present.
Councillor Keith Ferry, a longstanding member of the planning committee who chaired the committee for years, resigned from his role last year due to a conflict of interest as he is to represent the council on a board associated with the Harrow Strategic Development Partnership.
Most prime building developments, especially the skyscraper around the Harrow Town Centre, have taken place under Cllr Ferry chairmanship.
Then councillor Shah was appointed chairman by the council in December, without realising the possibility of the conflict of interest. His register of interests, most recently signed off in November 2020, disclosed that he works for Curtin and Co, a “specialist consultancy in planning politics and community development”.
Subsequently, and after residents raised concerns about his potential conflict of interest, Cllr Shah recognised that his professional career makes undertaking the chairmanship of the planning committee problematic and resigned as both chairman and member of the planning committee.
Given such a conspicuous instability in the planning committee leadership, the role of opposition planning lead Cllr Marilyn Ashton becomes quite significant. Cllr Ashton has expertise, experience and track record of scrutinising planning recommendations as well as insisting upon well informed planning decisions.
In the public interest, it is expected that Cllr Ashton along with her capable colleague Cllr Baxter on the planning committee would play more pronounced role in protecting the characteristic of the borough, more than observing conventional political group alignment.