EASTBOURNE'S longest serving councillor is under investigation for an alleged breach of planning rules following his involvement in a demonstration.

Councillor Maurice Skilton MBE is being investigated over his involvement in a protest about an application to erect a 12-metre high phone mast in his Old Town ward.

A complaint made to the Standards Board for England and Wales has already been dismissed but now officers at Eastbourne Borough Council are interviewing the 85-year-old.

The investigation surrounds the application submitted for the 3G 12-metre mast at the junction of Central Avenue and Victoria Drive 18 months ago.

Cllr Skilton helped organise a meeting which involved members of the public, fellow councillors and the mobile phone network.

A public demo was then organised which the Old Town Lib Dem councillor was pictured attending.

Cllr Skilton is, and was at the time, a member of the planning committee.

Rules state that elected members must make up their minds with all the evidence placed in front of them on the day of the meeting and not in advance.

By attending the protest, Cllr Skilton, who is also a county councillor, could have breached the rules.

He was reported to the borough council's standards committee by planning committee chairman Cllr Patrick Bowker.

This week Cllr Skilton remained defiant over his views against mobile masts.

He said, 'I have and always will be against phone masts on the grounds of the health risk, which in my opinion has not been proved either way.

'As a result of this application being submitted I called a public meeting and then attended a public demonstration against it.

'It is for this reason that I have been reported to the standards boards.

'At the subsequent planning meeting, I moved against it as a member of the committee. I have always said that I would be against it.

'My views and those of the people I represent are more important than the governing rules.'

The application was heard by the planning committee on July 20, 2004.

Fellow ward councillor Ian Lucas also spoke out at the meeting against the mast proposal.

All councillors on the committee voted against it.

But following an appeal in October 2004 the mast was approved in May last year.

The investigation comes just weeks after the announcement that Eastbourne's Mayor Cllr Graham Marsden breached rules while speaking on a planning matter.

Cllr Marsden, a Conservative, has been suspended from the council for the month of January.

Cllr Skilton added, 'I have been elected to represent the people of Old Town and I will continue to do just that.

'For years I have campaigned against mobile phone masts.

'I am deeply hurt and anxious. I have served the council to the best of my ability for 45 years and this is deeply embarrassing for me.

'I do not want to damage the council, but I feel I must stand up for the residents who I serve.

'I will be glad when this is all over.'

19 January 2006

All rights reserved © 2006 Johnston Press New Media.



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