Forster Country Landscape Forster Country Landscape 

We considered that the summing up of the meeting of 8th December showed pre-determination by its Chairman, Simon Speller. 12 of the 13 members of the Committee had restricted their comments to questions and comments directly about the Outline application. The Chairman appeared to have come to the meeting with prepared notes or opinions including references unrelated to the Application itself. This included a statement that FoFC had a narrow view of Forster Country which did not include land towards Hampson Park or anything about Highfield House (Elizabeth Poston’s childhood home). He also mentioned The Avenue as being outside the purview of FoFC. These statements are incorrect and we feel that they must have been prepared in advance to persuade others that FoFC do not have a complete view of Forster Country and must therefore be suspect.
The Chairman also extolled the virtues of the so-called Country Park. Although this in itself is directly related to the Application, it is a view that he had put forcibly to FoFC ten years ago, asking us to visit Aldenham Country Park to view its merits. With this knowledge it seems that he had considered for a long time that a country park of the sort projected is the right way to go.
We made a formal complaint to SBC about predetermination by the Chairman along with a number of individual complaints from members of the public. This was considered by Simon Banks, the legal adviser to SBC and his appointed independent assessor. The complaint was rejected although the assessor did make an oblique reference to predisposition which was unnecessary unless he felt that there could have been such predisposition.
Making this complaint was of course a serious issue for FoFC as predetermination is very much disallowed by rules governing standards in public office. But we believe that it was right to do it. We now feel that it is not worth pursuing this further as the Ombudsman is likely to say that it has been independently assessed and so we have no further grounds for complaint. Further to this, the difference between predetermination, which is not allowed and predisposition, which is allowed, seems to depend on nuance.