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Tory leaders past and present clash over RAF Daws Hill
WYCOMBE'S former and current council leaders have clashed in public during a fiery debate over the future of RAF Daws Hill.
Ex-leader Cllr Lesley Clarke unleashed a scathing attack over the decision to effectively exclude residents from influencing two key proposals.
These are for a major housing development at the RAF site and Wycombe Sports Centre at Handy Cross.
Residents are bidding to create a neighbourhood forum under the Government's new Localism Act to give them sway on what happens at the locations.
But the two sites have been omitted from the forum area by the council on legal advice.
During a blistering broadside Cllr Clarke told her successor, leader Cllr Alex Collingwood he was "totally wrong".
The Tories were locked in a tempestuous tussle, eventually agreeing to create a 'checking process' for the Daws Hill development, which residents would be able to feed their views into.
There is conflicting information over the legal position, leaving the authority with an impasse. Daws Hill Residents Association has threatened legal action.
Cllr Clarke, who stepped down as leader in May 2011, lambasted the way the process has been handled so far, saying: "I think there have been a lot of things that have gone wrong."
She claimed residents had not been properly consulted and blasted: " For you to take out the RAF site is absolutely unacceptable. It defies the reason we have put it forward. You have alienated the people I represent."
Cllr Collingwood launched a robust defence of the council's actions, telling her at last week's meeting: "With respect, I have been to many forums and so have officers, we have engaged, there have been numerous workshops.
"We knew it was a key site and I wanted to get make sure we got good quality designs.
"We've worked our socks off, we keep checking with officers and are asking questions every day. To say we haven't engaged in the community is not the case, it's an open decision with the community."
But a passionate and clearly unhappy Cllr Clarke, responded: "You are wrong, you are totally wrong." She suggested he needed to re-read documents.
The pair disagreed over whether a district referendum would be required, regarding the sports centre's inclusion in the forum.
Cllr Collingwood reiterated that the council had got it right and insisted: "They (the officers) have made it very clear we have taken the right (legal) advice."
Councillor Hugh McCarthy, responsible for planning, said: "This is really difficult, there is no legal precedent we really couldn't be any worse position."
But he said with a 'heavy heart' his view would be to opt to exclude the two sites from the forum.