A TOP planning inspector has suggested that Redditch and Bromsgrove planners might have ‘fixed the pitch’ in favour of one particular area over another in order to site a massive 3,400 home development there.
Simon Hetherington voiced the view as he heard evidence at a planning inquiry into proposals scheduled for land at Webheath and Bentley.
It was one of a number of concerns voiced by the inspector before a packed hearing at Redditch Town Hall.
At issue is the council’s plan to site 600 homes by Webheath and a further 2,800 in the Bromsgrove hamlet of Bentley.
The proposal should have been dealt with by Mr Hetherington at the end of 2014 but the joint councils had asked for first one then two delays, producing in the process four different sustainability assessments to justify their location choice.
As part of the process the council had ‘scored’ each possible area for the development but over the intervening months had altered those figures, accentuating the reasons to build at Webheath.
“I will be upfront – I have great concerns and I really need to explore these in some detail,” said Mr Hetherington.
“You have used the process to alter some of the scores which I did not ask you to do, but you have done so anyway – can you say why?”
Planning development officer Emma Baker replied that the scores had been updated through new information being received.
However Mr Hetherington replied: “I have to work on the basis that you thought you got it right first time so if you made further changes it leads me to the suspicion that you have basically fixed the pitch.
“You have led me a tangled trail – frankly it’s quite hard to get your head around one sustainability assessment but to get your head around four is frankly almost impossible.”
The inquiry closed on Wednesday with Mr Hetherington saying he would set out his concerns in writing to Redditch borough and Bromsgrove district councils on July 10 to be published on the councils’ websites.