Council leaders issued a public statement calling for calm ahead of a planning committee meeting last week citing the ‘threats, aggression, and intimidation’ that council workers and councillors had faced on a ‘daily basis’ regarding the development of two warehouses up for decision.
The proposed development at Maple Cross in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire involves the development of two warehouse totalling 178,500ft2 on a 8.45-acre greenfield plot purchased speculatively by Barwood Capital and Ashford Developments for around £16 million in 2018. The proposals state that the scheme could provide up to 600 direct and indirect jobs as well as £1 million in business rates per year.
Council officers had recommended the plans for approval at the meeting on 21st October 2021. The plot has commercial development to the northeast and west and planning permission has been granted for a hotel to the north. The council had previously allocated the site for employment space. However the land is also adjacent to the Maple Lodge Nature Reserve and the proposals have met with strong public objection.
The Three Rivers Council joint statement was signed by all four party leaders condemning the behaviour of some members of the public: “The increasing level of threats, aggression, and intimidation faced on a daily basis, both by local councillors and officers of this council—online, by telephone, and face to face—is unacceptable and there can be no justifiable excuse for it whatsoever.
“That is why we have jointly come together ahead of tonight’s meeting, putting aside any political differences, to highlight our concerns publicly, to urge restraint and say enough is enough. Please treat others as you would yourself wish to be treated—with respect and tolerance.”
“Feelings frequently run high in politics, especially when a contentious issue is on the table before us such as the Maple Cross warehouse planning application. The freedom to express our opinions is the absolute cornerstone of a healthy democracy in which elected representatives stand accountable to the public for their decisions.
“As local leaders of different parties we welcome debate and peaceful protest from those who disagree with us. We welcome robust scrutiny, informed debate and ultimately the chance for voters to hold us accountable at the ballot box.
“Council employees are just that, local government officers whose function is day to day administration of the council, providing services, and people who are simply doing their job.
“The strength of public feeling on the Maple Cross planning application is loud and clear and to be welcomed. But there is a right and healthy way to debate and express strongly held views and a wrong way.”
It was reported that around 50 members of the public attended the meeting as the majority of the planning committee voted to defer the application in order to seek independent advice on a planning issue.
Letting agents for the scheme to be known as MX Park are DTRE and Levy Real Estate.