Bromsgrove planning chiefs accused of 'double standards'

By Carl Jackson Friday 07 December 2012 Updated: 07/12 00:17

THE DISTRICT council’s planning committee is facing a serious overhaul after several councillors made scathing attacks on the way it has been operating.

Members, which make crucial decisions on significant developments in Bromsgrove, were accused of double standards following Monday’s (December 3) meeting.

The committee approved two applications from Bromsgrove District Housing Trust (BDHT) to build homes on garage sites - three at land next to York Close in Sidemoor and three more at land next to Breakback Road in Whitford.

But, the same councillors refused a similar proposal for a site at George Road in Alvechurch last month.

They cited density and road safety, as reasons for refusal - the same issues flagged up in Whitford and Sidemoor.

Labour councillors Luke Mallett (Whitford) and Chris Bloore (Sidemoor), both backed residents in their wards and spoke up against the plans on Monday only to see them approved.

They both accused planning members of being swayed by Coun leader Roger Hollingworth who spoke against the George Road development on behalf of residents in Alvechurch where he represents and lives himself.

Coun Bloore said: “We are deeply disappointed by the decision.

“A proposal gets refused in one part of Bromsgrove with exactly the same problems and issues, but then when it comes to other parts nearer the town centre in areas of higher density it passes through.

“Residents want consistency. It is completely a postcode lottery when it comes to planning.”

Coun Mallett added: “How are the public supposed to have confidence in the planning committee?”

Coun Hollingworth admitted all three applications should have been refused and expressed sympathy with residents in Sidemoor and Whitford.

He said he had been concerned with the performance of the planning committee and vowed to review it.

“We must have consistency with like for like applications.

“I don’t understand why they weren’t refused.

“We need affordable homes, but not at any cost.

“I am looking at the committee - it’s one of the most important things we have and we have to get it right.”

In a further twist, the three Labour committee members came under fire for removing themselves from the debate declaring they had interests following discussions they had had with BDHT in recent months.

As the Whitford and Sidemoor applications were approved by marginal decisions, residents accused the Labour councillors of letting them down, depriving them of crucial votes which would have likely changed the decision.

Coun Hollingworth said they were simply ‘copping out’ of making a difficult decision.

Labour group leader Peter McDonald, waded into the debate and claimed the council was to blame for the current situation.

He said the authority had denied BDHT adequate land to build on over the years, leading to a number of applications on inappropriate sites.

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