A UKIP member has defended his silence at a series of key meetings which could forever change Arun district – by admitting he had nothing ‘useful’ to say.
The district council’s local plan sub-committee last night backed changes to the key housing document which would see 20,000 homes built up until 2031 – with a series of green spaces under threat. Click here for the full report.
But despite the gravity of the situation, UKIP’s sole representative on the committee, Derek Ambler, has remained silent throughout months of meetings.
In response, Mr Ambler said: “If I could have said anything useful I would have said it. A lot of people who comment just like to hear themselves speak and be reported in the press.
“The most valuable contribution I make is at parish council level where I am on Yapton Parish Council’s planning committee.”
Mr Ambler’s party was criticised internally and externally last month following its support for Arun’s Conservative budget.
Liberal Democrat leader claimed there was ‘no difference’ between the two parties due to UKIP’s regular support for Tory initiatives.
Mr Ambler agreed there was ‘not a big difference’ and said he sympathised with the Conservatives.
He said: “I was a Tory supporter for 53 years and 12 years ago I changed to UKIP as I thought we had got to get out of Europe.
“Now Brexit has happened it is really the Tories who are going to take us out of Europe. I can see myself one day returning to the Tories but probably not for the next few years – once Brexit is over.
“It would be hypocritical of me to vote against the Tories if we want them to get us out of Europe.”
This newspaper challenged all members of the local plan sub-committee to speak at last night’s meeting, after a meeting on Monday lasted just 28 minutes.
Residents have criticised a lack of debate at the committee, including former councillor and UKIP branch secretary Tony Dixon, who last year said told full council the length of the meetings was ‘pathetic’.
Mr Ambler confirmed he had received a copy of the comment but said he did not think he could ‘make a contribution that achieves anything’.
Councillors received a number of private briefings in the run-up to the meetings, which Mr Ambler said he had spoken at.
He argued there was a ‘lot of waffling’ at the committee meetings. Councillors met for an average of just 33 minutes over the last 12 committees, with one question asked at Monday’s meeting.
He said he was not comfortable with the expected housing growth but blamed the Government for imposing lofty targets.
Immigration was a major factor in the need to build new homes, he claimed – but he admitted ageing population and inward migration were the primary reasons for Arun’s predicament.