REDDITCH Conservatives went on the offensive at Tuesday night’s full council meeting, the last before the summer recess.
At the heart of their attack was the controversial plan for the future expansion of the borough for the next 15 years.
That plan – ‘Local Plan 4’ – envisages some 3,000 new homes within the boundary of Redditch, plus 3,400 more at Brockhill and Webheath up to Bentley in Bromsgrove district.
However, last week local Tory MP Karen Lumley lodged a ‘Notice to Hold’ the plan with the Department of Communities and Local Government. This would involve civil servants re-examining it with the potential of the Secretary of State, Bromsgrove MP Sajid Javid putting a stop to it. Mr Javid has already written objecting to the plan.
Councillors discussed a recommendation that they push ahead with an eight-week consultation programme on the main modifications to the plan, starting on July 27 and running until September 21.
But what if Mrs Lumley was successful in her efforts to get the plan stopped, surely this consultation exercise would represent a huge waste of council taxpayers money? asked Coun Juliet Brunner (Matchborough & Ipsley), leader of the council’s Conservative group.
Instead she proposed an amendment delaying consultation until after the Notice to Hold issue had been resolved.
“Your local plan is flawed and we cannot support it,” she said.
If it was a trap it was a cunning one, as Tory councillors lined up to take potshots at the plan. Coun David Bush (Con, West) spoke for many when he said: “The houses will be on the wrong side of town from the employment areas. There will be gridlock.”
Labour seemed non-plussed, first questioning what exactly ‘Notice to Hold’ actually meant, before denying ownership of the plan, saying the main modifications were the planning inspector’s and not theirs.
However, they seized on a comment by Coun Anita Clayton (Con, Batchley & Brockhill) who said the Notice to Hold might stand a better chance with the Cabinet reshuffle of Prime Minister Theresa May.
Was she implying that Mr Javid, the new Secretary of State, might be in anyway biased? asked Labour. Coun Clayton quickly beat a retreat and the matter was put to the vote. The amendment fell 14-13, Coun Paul Swansborough (Ukip, Winyates) voting with the Tories.
Labour will now be hoping the Notice to Hold also fails so they won’t have to go through the entire planning process again.