A senior officer at Buckinghamshire Council has called a vote by members of a local town council in support of a controversial film studio development 'unusual and odd'. 

In September, before a planning committee chose to defer a decision on the Marlow Film Studios project until next spring, 11 members of Marlow Town Council participated in an off-record vote in which they agreed to "fully support and not raise any objections" to the large-scale development proposed for land near the A404 in Little Marlow. 

Following backlash to the submission, which Little Marlow Parish Councillor Anna Crabtree decried as "secret and undemocratic", Marlow Town Council Leader Chris Funnell apologised for the "misleading" nature of the comment, which he said represented the views of individual councillors rather than the authority as a whole.

The Free Press has now seen an email thread in which a senior officer at Buckinghamshire Council described the town councillors' actions as 'odd and unusual' whilst addressing a Code of Conduct complaint submitted by a Marlow resident.

Colin McCulloch alleged in his complaint that the councillors' submission about the film studio proposal had been "wrong and misleading", running the risk of appearing to be a consensus reached by the local authority when it was in fact "the opinion of one or more people as private individuals". 

He described Marlow Film Studios as "the most important planning application concerning Marlow in decades", adding that he was concerned the submission "could yet be crucial" to the proposal's eventual outcome.

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Glenn Watson, Principal Governance Officer for Legal and Democratic Services at Buckinghamshire Council told Colin that the councillors in question had not breached the Code of Conduct, as they were entitled to express their personal views, but admitted that the incident had been "unusual and odd" and had caused "considerable consternation and reputational fallout". 

He wrote: "(The problem was with) the way the original submission was discussed and drafted which referred to councillors meeting up together, having a discussion and voting.

"These are things usually associated with formal meetings. No one needs to vote on something they can do as of right.

"It is to be hoped that Marlow Town Council's members will have learned the governance lessons so that this does not occur in the future."

A spokesperson for Buckinghamshire Council said the authority was not responsible for the governance arrangements of parish or town councils, with the subject of Mr Watson's correspondence relating specifically to the Members Code of Conduct.

Marlow Town Council declined a request for comment.