Anger at planning chair’s leading questions

Complaint against Cllr Keith Jones considered by Ombudsman

Local residents in the Canton and Pontcanna area have expressed concerns at the way that Cllr Keith Jones chaired the two Cardiff council planning meetings regarding Suffolk House.

A complaint was sent to the Public Service Ombudsman which read:

I wish to complain about Cllr Keith Jones, Cardiff who I believed has breached the code of conduct for members of local authorities in Wales, in his role of chair of Cardiff’s planning committee.

Specifically, I believe he has broken the following elements of the code:

– that he used his position to improperly confer an advantage on Quin and Co developers and their planning application for Suffolk House

– that he failed to show respect and consideration to members of the public attending the committee for the above application.

Cllr Jones chaired two meetings of the planning committee where application 18/01064/MJR for Suffolk House were discussed.  On both occasions he behaved improperly by steering the committee towards accepting the application by asking leading questions to the council’s officers about the felling of trees on the site, which is in a conservation area.  This had an vital material effect on the decision making as Cllr Iona Gordon voted against the development in the first meeting and in favour of it in the second.  In the first meeting she spoke about her concerns about felling the trees.  In the second she said she now agreed with the tree officer’s report that the developers should be given permission to fell the trees. 

Cllr Jones went further by deliberately misinterpreting the content of the officials advice regarding the trees by stating that their felling and replacement with new trees was an overall betterment, when in fact the report was more balanced.

He also tried to prevent one member of the committee from stating his view on retaining the trees.

Furthermore, Cllr Jones failed to show to respect and consideration to members of the public who were watching the committee meeting on 13 February 2019.  When they clapped after one contribution he angrily threatened to “clear the public gallery” and incorrectly stated that the meeting was a public one. 

The Ombudsman reviewed the recordings of both planning committees but decided that Cllr Jones had behaved correctly.

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