A STRATFORD district councillor this week found himself in the unusual position of having a planning "stop" notice issued against him by officials from the local authority on which he himself serves as an elected member.
Cllr Robert Vaudry (Cons, Bardon)—a former international banker—has been ordered by Stratford-on-Avon District Council to stop making alterations to his historic home in the village of Dorsington until certain ecological conditions have been satisfied.
But behind the technical requirements of the temporary 28-day “stop” notice lies a much bigger issue, with a major row erupting over Cllr Vaudry’s proposals to turn his property—the centuries-old Moat House in the village—into a conference centre and wedding venue.
What has enraged local people most is Cllr Vaudry’s apparent assumption that his plans for the property would be approved automatically, to such an extent that he was promoting the building as a wedding venue and conference centre before the proposals officially became public.
Yesterday (Wednesday) Dorsington parish councillor Donald Lindsay, whose wife, Margaret, is the parish clerk, told the Herald the first they became aware of Cllr Vaudry’s plans was when they went to the Troughtons’ Christmas family concert at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford on Sunday 16th December.
“In the concert brochure there was a full-page advertisement announcing the Moat House as a wedding venue,” said Cllr Lindsay. “It was a complete surprise that a website had also been set up promoting it as such.
“We were extremely concerned that nothing had been said before this happened. There was no planning notice so no-one knew what was going on.”
People were especially mystified that nothing had been said earlier because—in another ironic twist—Cllr Vaudry’s wife, Sarah, is the chairman of Dorsington Parish Council.
It was not until two days after the concert—on 18th December—that Mrs Lindsay, as clerk to the parish council, was officially informed that a planning application had gone to Stratford District Council.
Said Cllr Lindsay: “It’s being presented to the village as a fait accompli—that permission would be granted and it would go ahead. He has completely misjudged the mood of the village. I’m a Scot, and I’ve never seen an English village in such a mood of uprising. How he thought that this would be acceptable to the village is just amazing.”
With the intervention of Christmas and the New Year it was not until last Sunday that about 40 outraged villagers were able to hold a public meeting to discuss the issue. It was decided after a unanimous show of hands to campaign vigorously against Cllr Vaudry’s plans.
One Dorsington resident, Ray Perry, is so angry that he was unable to contain his fury towards Cllr Vaudry. “The majority of people in this village who have got to know him a lot better over the past few weeks think he has no respect for this village,” declared Mr Perry.
Another resident, Nigel Phillips—a former senior partner with Lodders solicitors who is now a consultant to the firm—told the Herald yesterday that Cllr Vaudry’s plans were “outrageous” and added: “If permission is granted the village will, frankly, be ruined forever.”
Mr Phillips said Dorsington was within a conservation area and was a quintessentially quiet English village. “It’s approached by three single-track roads, all of which will be heavily trafficked by anticipated wedding vehicles,” he said.
The Moat House is the second most prominent house in Dorsington after Dorsington Manor, the property occupied by the magazine magnate and poet Felix Dennis.
The temporary “stop” notice against Cllr Vaudry relates to ecological issues stemming from the demolition of a chimney and work inside a bar.
In a statement to the Herald yesterday Stratford District Council said: “The notice, which is valid for 28 days, prohibits the carrying out of various works including alterations and extensions which had been authorised by a planning permission in 2008, as the ecological conditions for the protection of bats and great crested newts have not been satisfied.
“Works on site have ceased in accordance with the requirements of the notice, and the owners of the property, Mr and Mrs Vaudry, have engaged an ecologist to oversee the works, and ensure compliance with the conditions. This is a normal process for the district council to follow under these circumstances.”
Ward member Cllr Peter Barnes (Lib Dem, Welford) said yesterday: “There’s great concern at the county council that the bat habitat has been damaged or changed as a result of the demolition of the chimney and other work inside a barn.”
Cllr Vaudry failed to respond to repeated requests by the Herald to discuss the matter with him by the time the paper went to press.
As well as a career in banking, which included three years as global head of research for HSBC, Cllr Vaudry was political secretary to former Conservative Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath, during his latter period as a backbencher.
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