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Parties clash over 'electioneering'

PUBLISHED: 10:40 18 April 2008 | UPDATED: 20:10 05 July 2010

A council has become embroiled in a row after a political party claimed an opposition candidate had breached election rules by speaking on behalf of residents at a planning meeting.

A council has become embroiled in a row after a political party claimed an opposition candidate had breached election rules by speaking on behalf of residents at a planning meeting.

The Labour group in Waveney has hit out after Conservative councillor Stephen Ardley, who is standing for re-election in the Carlton ward, in Lowestoft, spoke in front of the district council's development control committee during a period known as purdah.

Purdah is imposed in the run-up to an election to prevent one party gaining an unfair advantage over its opponents, but last night Waveney council revealed its legal officers had cleared Mr Ardley to speak and that he was not in breach of the rules.

Mr Ardley spoke out against plans to build eight homes in Carlton Colville when he appeared before the development meeting on Wednesday. He announced before he started his speech that he had been given clearance by the council's monitoring officer to appear.

He told committee members: “Can we afford to lose another area of open space, no matter how small? Surely this is overdevelopment.”

Labour's campaign co-ordinator Sally Spore, whose husband Martyn is standing for Labour in the Carlton ward, claimed these comments were in breach of purdah and raised the issue with the council's legal chiefs.

She said: “I think it is inappropriate that Stephen Ardley has used his position as a councillor to speak at a public meeting at this time. In my opinion it is electioneering.”

Mr Ardley declined to comment yesterday, saying he was unable to respond to Mrs Spore's claims during purdah and that the complaint was being dealt with by the council's monitoring officer.

A spokesman for Waveney District Council said: “Stephen Ardley sought advice from the monitoring officer to establish whether he could speak on behalf of objectors without breaching any procedures relating to the pre-election period, and was told he would be permitted to take part.”

The application for six bungalows and two houses in Rowan Way was turned down after councillors raised concerns about the impact of the pair of two-storey homes on neighbours. They told the developers to come back with plans for only bungalows.

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