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Cllr Alan Roberts, right, beside Sheikh Abid Gulzar and his agent Brett Maclean at a charity event in 2015 (source: Alan Roberts' Facebook page).

Cllr Alan Roberts, right, beside Sheikh Abid Gulzar and his agent Brett Maclean at a charity event in 2015 (source: Alan Roberts’ Facebook page).

Chair should have declared conflict of interest, says critic

The application for installing five kiosks on the pier was passed by HBC’s planning committee at its March meeting, but in the view of local resident Chris Hurrell the committee chair, Cllr Alan Roberts, should have declared a conflict of interest and left the room. In Mr Hurrell’s view, the chair was also remiss in allowing the pier owner to ramble on about irrelevant matters when answering questions from committee members. Nick Terdre reports.

Three committee members – Cllrs Trevor Webb, Matthew Beaver and Margi O’Callaghan – declared conflicts of interest as they know either the pier owner, Sheikh Abid Gulzar, or his agent, Brett Maclean, or both, and took no part in dealing with the application.

“Cllr Roberts knows both the applicant and the agent; he is also a Facebook friend of Mr Gulzar,” local resident Chris Hurrell told HOT. “Despite this, he did not declare an interest.”

Cllrs Beaver and O’Callaghan acknowledged being acquainted with the agent, but not with the owner.

“Might it be seen that Cllr Roberts’ acquaintance with the agent and applicant is at least as strong as Cllr Beaver’s and Cllr O’Callaghan’s? Is it not more important that the Chair declares any interests?” Mr Hurrell asked.

Alan Roberts is a FB friend of Sheikh Gulzar, according to the latter's FB page.

Alan Roberts is a Facebook friend of Sheikh Abid Gulzar, according to the latter’s Facebook page.

Cllr Roberts was asked to respond to the allegations but when the article was ready to be published no reply had been received.

Mr Hurrell said he had made a complaint to the Monitoring Officer about what he saw as Cllr Robert’s failure to acknowledge a conflict of interest with the intention of having these matters taken to the Standards Committee.

Possible breaches

Mr Hurrell further questioned whether in failing to declare an interest Cllr Roberts might be in breach of the HBC constitution in respect of the Planning Protocol and the Members’ Code Of Conduct.

The Planning Protocol states that

  1. “…Planning Committee members should not favour any person, company, group or locality, nor put themselves in a position where they appear to do so.”
  2. “…These require the open disclosure of any personal and/or prejudicial interests in issues being considered by the Council, its Cabinet or any of its Committees…”

The protocol further warns against allowing any appearance of bias:

22. “… members of a Planning Committee need to avoid any appearance of bias or of having predetermined their view before taking a decision on a planning application…Councillors should not participate in the consideration of a planning application if to do so would give the appearance of bias…It is not the councillor’s view of whether they are biased that is relevant but the view of the independent observer. Perception is important…”

Meandering off the subject

Mr Hurrell also complained that when answering questions from committee members, Mr Gulzar was allowed to meander off the subject and fail to address the question. “He digressed into his personal background and his seven-day-a-week working habits. He made allegations against HBC, the Friends of Hastings Pier, ex-employees, objectors and the public. The Chair made no attempt to intervene and keep him focused on matters relevant to the application,” Mr Hurrell says.

“For example, in response to a question from Cllr Michael Edwards concerning usage plans for the new sheds, Mr Gulzar provided information on Eastbourne Pier, criticised the Friends of Hastings Pier, praised British traditions, provided further biographical information and informed us of his boarding school education in India – but did not say what his plans were.

Cllr Roberts, left, and Mr Gulzar, second right, at the same charity event in 2015 (source: Sid Saunders', second left, Facebook page).

Cllr Roberts, left, and Mr Gulzar, second right, at a charity event in 2015 (source: Sid Saunders’, second left, Facebook page).

“In contrast, objectors to planning applications are given a list of things that will be taken into consideration when they address the committee, and are advised what comments will be disallowed. I am certain that had the petitioner who was given five minutes to address the committee behaved in the same manner as Mr Gulzar, then the Chair would have intervened and warned him that he would lose the opportunity to respond, or be removed, if he did not stick to the subject.”

It is the role of the Chair to ensure that speakers focus on planning related-issues, Mr Hurrell says. “There was no attempt by the Chair to ensure that the applicant stuck to planning matters. I have never witnessed any other speaker being treated so indulgently by a Chair and given free rein to make allegations against all and sundry.”

 

Posted 13:09 Friday, Apr 5, 2019 In: Local Government

12 Comments

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  1. Ms. Doubtfire

    Latest news: slap on wrist – Alan Roberts did ‘nowt wrong…but you wont be able to find out much about any of this as the meeting was behind closed doors..good innit how this council operates.

    Comment by Ms. Doubtfire — Friday, Sep 13, 2019 @ 12:19

  2. Ms.Doubtfire

    Latest news on this unsavoury matter is that pretty soon the Standards Committee will meet to decide whether or not Councillor Alan Roberts has breached the Code of Conduct…what’s the betting that it will be a slap on the wrist and ‘off you go old chap??? Don’t do it again…’

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019 @ 17:47

  3. Ms.Doubtfire

    Whilst we are on the ‘no comment’ theme – did anyone see any comments from our Planning Department about this Hastings Eye which has appeared alongside the lake in the Amusement Park in the Old Town? Who gave them permission to erect this additional ride? What could be next? And whilst we are on the subject of piers and amusement parks, it was a pretty mean thing to steal the little lifesize pony from the pier – that really is not very nice at all. Come on guys (or gals) give it back.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Sunday, Apr 14, 2019 @ 19:49

  4. Bolshie

    Reading this article which is now nine days old as I write, I presume there is still no comment from either Cllr Roberts or his Labour party about this alleged association with the Sheikh of Eastbourne.

    The failure to say anything on what is a serious issue regarding planning applications and from what we have witnessed in the recording of this committee does not sit at all well. The no comment game with politicians gives us public no choice but to make up our own minds on what has been going on here.
    And I know what my mind is thinking – is yours think the same?

    Comment by Bolshie — Sunday, Apr 14, 2019 @ 15:57

  5. didireallysaythat

    When I was amongst the protesters and a friend and I asked the owner questions I honestly did not know who cllr Allan Roberts was. I thought he was the owner, Mr Gulzar’s right hand man. (Admittedly, my take on it) I really thought he was his P.R. person as he acted like his spokes person! After that I saw a film of that day’s events when we asked Mr Gulzar questions I could not believe how much the film had been cut as it was so different from what was actually ‘said’ due to ommissions and swapping parts in different order of when things were said. (One Show and on the web.) Now reading this article I question cllr Roberts actions of not excusing himself from the vote.

    Comment by didireallysaythat — Thursday, Apr 11, 2019 @ 10:31

  6. Ms.Doubtfire

    So JB Knight (yet again) takes a pop at pier protestors….take a pop at whosoever you wish JB Knight but do not condone low grade planning practices. Surely you would wish to see all planning applications administered under the planning protocols as outlined in not only the Hastings Constitution but also more importantly, as dictated in planning law.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Tuesday, Apr 9, 2019 @ 08:20

  7. Chris Hurrell

    I really don’t consider expecting elected councillors to conform to the requirements of the constitution to be “nit picking”. After all other members of the committee did declare an interest as is expected by the constitution. My concern is that in failing to declare an interest Councillor Roberts has left himself open to allegations of bias. As the constitution clearly states “members of a Planning Committee need to avoid any appearance of bias”.

    Comment by Chris Hurrell — Monday, Apr 8, 2019 @ 17:46

  8. J B KNIGHT

    GET ON WITH IT!

    5 More Huts wont really distract from the several empty huts on it and the march up the scaffold to the hut at the top.

    It would not be unusual for many members of a small town council to know those applying for business or planning permissions. They all know each other and its pretty incestuous. Or all the “people” and “community” projects would have to be scrapped and turned down.

    I really hate this nitpicking and the obvious bias.

    Gulzar got 5 huts YiHaa. No reason or expectation why he would not. Yet onus is on again finding and picking fault and reason for attack.

    You may not have noticed but most people are pretty bored with this and it is a tie with Brexit as to which most people are bored with and want those in charge just to get on with it.

    Its Not The People’s Pier as Most People were pretty excluded and repelled by the in team.

    So no bets on who is considered the most obnoxious, belligerent and boring. Its a Tie.

    Comment by J B KNIGHT — Monday, Apr 8, 2019 @ 15:38

  9. Ms.Doubtfire

    If Councillor Alan Roberts does not stand up and ‘explain’ his actions, he should resign his post. We cannot have this sort of behaviour within the planning department which is always causing outrage in this town. Enough is enough surely.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Monday, Apr 8, 2019 @ 13:33

  10. Kendal

    for clarity purposes – the fact 4 people on the planning committee personally know Mr Gulzar is not cause for general concern? forgive my naivety but do potential development plans not make up part of the application the administrators would have to consider in the pier’s purchase? wasn’t that one of the stated issues in the FOHP bid rejection? the council already washed their hands of any involvement in the deal, yet later we find they were part of the necessary ongoing consultation process. or should i have gone to specsavers?

    Comment by Kendal — Monday, Apr 8, 2019 @ 08:40

  11. Bolshie

    What a situation we have here! Not to declare knowing these two particular individuals who appear from what we read to have reputations ( will leave you to consider that ) in two boroughs is really unfathomable. One is not an authentic “Lord” the other so it seems a real Sheikh.
    I have heard the recording of this application where this “Sheikh” goes off on tangents and slags people off. How was that allowed? Well reading this article, I guess we know why he was allowed to deviate from it. This councillor the Chairman appears to have let him have free reign.
    If the Labour party have any integrity and transparency, I think they need to remove this Cllr Roberts immediately. Planning Committees have long been fraught with suspicion, opacity and even possible bribery. While of course I personally have no evidence of such, my point is once anything like this arises any council needs to deal with it rapidly.
    So far it appears nothing is being publicly addressed by either the Labour Party or the council and in the reportage it cites Cllr Roberts has not responded to this article. Not really good is it

    Comment by Bolshie — Saturday, Apr 6, 2019 @ 17:31

  12. Ms.Doubtfire

    Surely this behaviour calls for serious disciplinary action by the Standards Committee? And possibly a null and voiding process for this application?
    Unbelieavable that this was allowed to progress as far the planning committee without any hitch when it appears so many know of Cllr. Roberts association with the applicant and the applicants agent.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Saturday, Apr 6, 2019 @ 12:41

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