If you followed our live coverage of the full council meeting on Wednesday evening, you’ll know the Isle of Wight councillor for Whippingham and Osborne, Cllr Julia Baker-Smith, was elected as the new chair of the Planning Committee.
There were initially three nominations for the role, but this was narrowed down to two after Cllr Bob Blezzard – who was nominated by Cllr Priest – withdrew himself from the vote.
This left Independent Cllr Baker-Smith (nominated by Cllr Fuller – the previous chair) and Conservative Cllr Richard Hollis (nominated by Cllr Stewart).
A two minute opportunity to explain to members why they felt they were the best person for the job was proposed and voted on, attracting 20 votes in favour, 12 against and 4 abstentions.
Cllr Hollis: “I’m a free agent”
Conservative councillor for Parkhurst, Cllr Hollis, was the first to speak. He said,
“Town planning role is totally non political and that is terribly important. I think this is an admirable opportunity for a real cross-party non-partisan opportunity to appoint someone who is not of the ruling group to be chairman of planning.”
He went on to explain that he was chairman of planning in Richmond Upon Thames for four years, dealing with small and large scale applications. When he came to the Island, he was vice chairman of planning for two years, then becoming chairman for two years following the death of Ivor Bulwer who was chairman.
Cllr Hollis went on to say,
“I am a free agent, I do have time, I do not have to look after my family because they’ve all grown up. I can fit in with the officers’ time and their workload, so when I was chairman we didn’t have a fixed time to visit them, they’d call me and I was there.”
Cllr Baker-Smith: Having a family doesn’t preclude me from the role
Firstly thanking her colleagues for nomination, Cllr Baker-Smith went on to say,
“Clearly my colleagues on the other side of the chamber had some awareness of that the chairman was going to ask for two minute talks so I apologise for my unpreparedness.
“I’ve been on the Island all my life, I know this Island very, very well and prior to becoming a councillor in my campaign life I was involved with a number of significant planning application and came to know the planning system really rather well.
She went on to say,
“For the last month and a half approximately, I have been acting up into the role. I have worked hard in the role already. I’ve been working well with planning officers who phone me regularly and ask me to come in, on sometimes 30 minutes to an hour’s notice, which I do always.
“I have a family, but having a family certainly doesn’t preclude me from my role and I think it would be somewhat sexist if people were discriminatory if people were to consider that given all of my children at school or in full time childcare and as such I am free all day every day in order to undertake my role which I do and have been doing.”
There was a named vote.
It was interesting to see vice chairman, Cllr Chapman say he was abstaining, but the chair, Cllr Ian Ward, chose to vote (for Cllr Hollis).
The two Labour councillors (Lumley and Hollands) and the LibDem councillor (Barry) all voted for Cllr Baker-Smith.
Cllr Baker-Smith attracted 18 votes, whilst Cllr Hollis attracted 17. Cllr Baker-Smith was appointed as chairman of the planning committee.