September 29th, 2016

Councils’ U-turn in homes inquiry

Councils’ U-turn in homes inquiry Councils’ U-turn in homes inquiry
Updated: 9:01 am, Oct 31, 2015

TIM Sherwood lasted eight months at Aston Villa – yet local council planners have had years to justify their plans for 3,400 new homes at Webheath and Bentley – and they’re still bottom of the league.

That’s the verdict of campaigners fighting to stop the proposed developments on what is recognised as prime agricultural land.

A number of questions had been raised into the proposals by planning inspector Simon Hetherington at an inquiry in June at Redditch Town Hall, in particular why those specific areas had been chosen and other possible sites rejected.

The combined planning department of Redditch and Bromsgrove councils replied that to give him an answer would require a full review, with extensive public consultation, estimated to take 18 months. But Mr Hetherington, who hadn’t asked for a full review demanded the answers sooner.

Now, a month after this exchange, and advised by a barrister paid for by the council taxpayer, the councils have done a U-turn and said they will provide the answers in two months’ time – but without any public consultation.

An astonished Malcolm Glaister, chairman of the Bentley Area Action Group, said: “In rejecting proposals submitted by the councils for a comprehensive review of the proposed development, the inspector reiterated the clear directives he issued following the public hearings.

“Assuming there was not a failure by the councils to grasp the inspector’s guidance it is logical to conclude they had compelling reasons to disagree with him. Indeed they had. In the council’s own words ‘the original justification that helped determine those areas (previously) taken forward cannot be relied upon to have the same outcome’.

“Yet in their latest response to the inspector the councils have seemingly set aside this serious disclosure purely for expediency. The somersault is remarkable.”

Campaigners now want to know what credibility there can be in any revised approach which ignores the flaws identified by the councils, and why timing considerations now curtail the need for full public consultation.

A spokesperson for Redditch Borough Council said: “The inspector suggested we could carry out a specific, focused piece of work on this and we have responded to that feedback.”