Key appeal reasons will not be defended

By Harriet Ernstsons Friday 13 December 2013 Updated: 13/12 09:30

COUNCIL bosses have announced they will not defend key reasons for refusing plans to build 200 homes in Webheath as it could leave taxpayers footing a £100,000 bill.

Developers Taylor Wimpey and Barratt West Midlands are currently appealing against a decision taken by Redditch Borough Council's planning committee in May to throw out the plans for land off Church Road after more than 1,000 residents registered their objection.

The council had been planning to fight the appeal on three reasons which were given at the time of the refusal - additional traffic on the road network, lack of suitable infrastructure and lack of contribution towards the wider highway network infrastructure.

But the planning consultant hired to represent the council at January's appeal has advised the first two are 'indefensible' as there is no technical evidence to support them.

Councillors were told at an executive meeting on Tuesday (December 10), the consultant was 'explicit in her unwillingness to defend these reasons at the inquiry'.

A barrister has also advised if no evidence is available at the appeal, the planning inspectorate is likely to award costs against the council which officers have estimated could be around £100,000.

The decision means the case rests on the third reason which at the time was based on Worcestershire County Council backing a refusal if a contribution to the highway network was not agreed.

But councillors heard the county is now prepared to reach an agreement with the developers on an acceptable sum of money. If that happens, the county would withdraw from the appeal and effectively the borough council would offer no case in support of the original refusal decision.

Coun Greg Chance, responsible for planning on the council, said: "We are the guardians, it's not our money we are burning day by day if we don't stop this now. We need to protect the interests and finances of the people of this town and not to heed this advice would be foolish."

Coun Brandon Clayton called the news 'quite worrying' as members of the planning committee had felt there were good reasons for refusal at the time and as any applicant could ask for a public inquiry, the situation could be repeated 'again and again'.

But Coun Phil Mould felt even continuing to partly defend the decision was pointless.

"I think we should pull the plug on the lot of it. We're just throwing good money after bad, I don't know why we are going ahead with it."

But Ruth Bamford, head of planning, said the wheels had 'been set in motion' and the delays associated with asking the applicants to re-apply rather than go to appeal would mean they were likely not to agree.

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