Fury over Hatfield town centre 'secret meetings'

PUBLISHED: 11:39 25 June 2008 | UPDATED: 21:37 26 October 2009

Mike Hobday: 'culture of secrecy at council'

Mike Hobday: 'culture of secrecy at council'

PLANS to delay the Hatfield town centre revamp were discussed in unminuted meetings prior to the WHT exclusively revealing the hold-up. A Freedom of Information response has revealed discussions between Welwyn Hatfield Council and developers St Modwen wer

PLANS to delay the Hatfield town centre revamp were discussed in unminuted meetings prior to the WHT exclusively revealing the hold-up.

A Freedom of Information response has revealed discussions between Welwyn Hatfield Council and developers St Modwen were held without their contents being recorded.

In a letter to Mike Hobday, the chairman of Action Hatfield who submitted the request, a council chief admitted the faux pas.

Freedom of Information officer Ian Coyler said in his correspondence: "I have been informed by the council's representatives at these meetings that while there are two meetings there is only one set of minutes."

He refused to release copies of papers distributed at the meetings, stating they were "commercially sensitive".

Mr Hobday slammed council bosses for their "slapdash" approach.

He said: "This smacks of 'this is not important to us'. It is clear there is a culture of secrecy at the council.

"Why were two meetings held with the developer each month, but only one of them was minuted?

"Local residents deserve to know what was discussed at those meeting.

"However, the documents that have been released are shocking ones which betray the council's complacent approach to the development of the town centre.

"Despite the lacklustre approach to minute taking, it is clear the council was kept informed by St Modwen of the problems they were experiencing in letting the shops.

"I cannot understand why council officers did not raise any concern at the meetings."

A council spokesman denied they were being secretive about information and said the unminuted rendezvous was merely an "informal pre-meeting".

He said: "Welwyn Hatfield Council refutes the claim there is a culture of secrecy regarding the town centre redevelopment.

"The meeting which Mr Hobday is referring to, where minutes are not produced, is an informal pre-meeting which discusses technical aspects of the development, often having to go through the appraisal line by line.

"It is good practice to hold such pre-meetings to ensure the technical detail is in place to keep the formal meeting as efficient and concise as possible.

"The findings of the pre-meeting, and the points agreed, are minuted through the formal meeting.

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