Mayor and chairman of Eton Town Council threatens to resign over redevelopment debate

James Bagley, Local Democracy Reporter

Mayor and chairman of Eton Town Council threatens to resign over redevelopment debate

A row between councillors lead to the Mayor and Chairman of Eton Town Council (ETC) threatening to resign if he could not take part in a redevelopment debate.

Councillor George Fussey demanded members of ETC grant him dispensation, which would allow him to participate in the discussion to renovate and transform the South Meadow Lane Pavilion after a few councillors questioned if he should declare an interest.

The Pavilion is near and used by Eton College – Cllr Fussey’s employer.

Councillors Duncan Reed, who resigned, and Malcolm Leech put forward a motion requiring the chairman to declare an interest in the matter of the South Meadow Lane Pavilion redevelopment and its associated 25-year lease to Windsor Youth Football Club as it “may have an impact on his employer’s [Eton College] neighbouring premises”.

Speaking at the ETC meeting on Thursday (January 7), Cllr Leech said: “I don’t think anybody is trying to put a gagging order.

"We’re just saying that he [Cllr Fussey] needs to declare an interest because there’s different types of interests such as pecuniary interests.

“We’re just saying that there’s a potential interest because it is adjacent to land – which is Eton College – and George is an employee at the college.

“And as equally, if someone brought up a planning application about a property next door to me, I would have to declare an interest in it.

“What’s the difference?”

Cllr Fussey replied: “The college covers about half of Eton and in that particular case it would prevent me from just about anything as chair.

“If you as a council cannot give me this dispensation to talk about the issue of South Meadow Lane Rec, then frankly I would prepare to resign as chair and as a councillor because I don’t see how I can operate in any way.

“I am, in a sense, gagged from speaking about the field just because it’s next to the college and it’s laughable to think that Eton College is at all bothered by the fact that there might be a development there.

“They would certainly be bothered if it was a 3G pitch on Lammas land or whatever.”

A majority of parish councillors voted in favour to give Cllr Fussey dispensation, with only Cllr Leech abstaining from the vote.

The dispensation order will last until May.

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