Council will not defend Webheath homes refusal

By Ian Dipple Wednesday 11 December 2013 Updated: 11/12 11:25

COUNCIL chiefs have been accused of betraying the people of Webheath after announcing they would only partly defend the refusal to build 200 homes in the area to avoid wasting taxpayers money.

Redditch Borough Council say it has received advice indicating developers Taylor Wimpey and Barratt West Midlands will successfully overturn councillors' decision in May to refuse the application for the Pumphouse Lane site within the Webheath Area of Development Restraint (ADR) when an appeal hearing is held in front of a planning inspector next month.

The council's planning committee ignored planning officers recommendation to approve the proposal and instead turned it down highlighting concerns about traffic, infrastructure and highways contributions.

But after taking advice from lawyers and planning consultants preparing the council's case, officers have been told there is no evidence to support concerns about traffic and infrastructure.

As a result they have decided to withdraw those two elements of the council's defence, effectively meaning they will offer no case in support of the original refusal decision by councillors.

The council say the full cost of defending the case could run to £100,000 but with a successful defence unlikely - and the Planning Inspectorate making it clear in previous rulings councils which reject applications without evidence will have to pay full costs - it has been decided to proceed with defending the refusal would put taxpayers money at risk.

Council leader Bill Hartnett expressed his support for the move at an executive committee meeting on Tuesday (December 10).

Jayne Pickering, director of finance and section 151 officer, said: "Unfortunately it appears to be beyond reasonable doubt the inspector will find for the appellant in the public inquiry and likely make the council liable for all the costs incurred by both parties during the appeal.

"Given this, the appropriate and responsible course of action is to immediately signal our intention to withdraw the indefensible elements of the appeal, and incur no further costs related to those elements."

Ruth Bamford, head of planning, added even though outline planning permission was likely to be granted there will still issues to be resolved with the proposed development.

But David Rose, chairman of Webheath Action Group, said they would continue to defend the original decision to refuse the application.

"What a disgraceful set of affairs when Redditch Borough Council, refuse to defend their own decision.

Is this democracy? Certainly not," he said.

"RBC officers appear to make decisions for this council. This is what happens when weak councillors allow the tail to wag the dog.

"This is a bitter blow to local democracy and the residents of Webheath, who have been betrayed by their council."

The appeal hearing is due to start on January 16 and last six days.

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