ALMOST £15,000 of taxpayers cash has been spent reproducing a key planning document after flaws were found with it.
Redditch Borough Council has spent the money on external consultants to help rewrite the sustainability appraisal used to select land earmarked for new housing as part of the local plan process, which guides development up until 2030.
It followed objections raised by those opposed to the development of 3,400 new homes for Redditch on Bromsgrove District Council land around the Foxlydiate area and comments made by Planning Inspector
Michael Hetherington there was ‘potentially a serious flaw’ in the production of the local plan.
His concerns included the fact land in Webheath had been included in the version of Local Plan 4 submitted for scrutiny, yet had not been suitably tested against alternatives.
In particular questions have been raised about why the alternative option of developing Brockhill West, previously earmarked as a site for major development in earlier planning documents, was not chosen given it had a higher sustainability rating than Webheath.
The new sustainability appraisal will go out to consultation for six weeks towards the end of March and the plans for building Redditch homes on Bromsgrove land will then be scrutinised at public hearings in June.
Webheath Action Group, which uncovered the cost of the new report through a Freedom of Information request, say the delay and expense was unnecessary as planners should have listened to their arguments the Webheath area was unsuitable for such large scale development.
David Rose, chairman of WAG, said they feared the rewriting of the sustainability appraisal would be used as an opportunity to justify the selection of the Webheath ADR when the scoring criteria clearly showed Bordesley and Brockhill West should have been selected before the site and land around Foxlydiate.
“WAG have always maintained there are other areas that should be built upon before the Webheath ADR and this is now evidenced in Redditch Borough Council’s discounted sustainability appraisal evidence.”
A council spokeswoman said the cost of the new report was being met within existing budgets for the Local Plan.
“We took the decision to use a consultant because of the extent of the criticism that was raised during the original examination. We want to ensure the legal process is followed and that any deficiencies identified by the inspector examining the plan are legally compliant, so as not to delay the plan further. We felt this was best done by consultants with vast experience of writing sustainability appraisals.”