Councillor enforces ‘zero tolerance’ policy on comfort breaks

Hawick Councillor Jock Houston
Hawick Councillor Jock Houston

PLANNING chairman, Councillor Jock Houston, is enforcing a ban on visits to the toilet during discussions on applications.

The Hawick member (pictured) will operate a ‘zero tolerance’ policy – members who leave the council chamber while an application is considered will not be allowed to return until a decision is made.

It comes after Tory councillor Trevor Jones left during a debate on a controversial plan by Transport Scotland to realign the A7 near Falahill to accommodate the Borders railway and avoid a high speed gas main – a plan which attracted 37 objections.

The committee voted 4-3 in favour of the scheme after Mr Jones had ruled himself out of the discussion following an eight-minute toilet break.

At a recent meeting, SNP councillor Donald Moffat fell foul of the new guidelines, as did Councillor Carolyn Riddell-Carre. Both were asked to leave the chamber.

Councillor Houston said: “Councillors do not need permission or have to put up their hand and ask. When they are dealing with planning applications they are acting in a quasi-judicial role and have to accept that if they miss any part of the proceedings they can’t speak further or vote on that application.”