Homes refusal sparks off claims of playing politics

By Ian Dipple Thursday 23 January 2014 Updated: 24/01 08:58

ACCUSATIONS have been made a decision to refuse plans to build homes on an eyesore site in Feckenham was politically motivated.

A spokesman for Pat Dormer, behind the plan to build eight homes on land off Astwood Lane by demolishing several buildings including a workshop and stables, said they intended to appeal the refusal by Redditch Borough Council’s Planning Committee last week (January 15).

He said they did not believe the reasons for refusal were consistent with new government planning guidance which allows already-built-on land in the greenbelt to be redeveloped as long as it does not have a greater impact than what is already there.

He added they were also concerned the vote appeared to be split along party political lines with the Conservatives approving the development and Labour councillors voting against, with committee chairman Andy Fry eventually having the casting vote.

“It is an eyesore and this would tidy the site up without a doubt,” he said.

“It definitely felt like a political vote. The reasons for refusal are really weak and go against government policy.

“We will go to appeal and if we win this will cost the council money. Common sense should prevail here.”

The plan also had the backing of Feckenham Parish Council and over 30 letters of support.

Coun Roger Bennett, one of the Conservative councillors on the planning committee, said he was confused by the refusal.

“This site would have given the young people from the village and beyond the opportunity to buy their own property in the village, without building on greenfield sites,” he said.

“The sad part is the development had overwhelming support not only from the local residents, but also the parish council.”

But planners insist government guidance states development should only be allowed in the greenbelt in exceptional circumstances which they say do not exist.

They argue the proposal would have a greater impact on the openness of the greenbelt compared to what is already there and is in an unsustainable location which would increase car journeys to and from the village.

Coun Fry rejected claims the decision was politically motivated.

“There are no group decisions on planning, no talking beforehand between members, I wouldn’t allow it because it’s not allowed,” he said.

“The officers recommendation about building eight properties in the greenbelt was it is a substantial development and there were very strong planning reasons why it should be turned down and that’s the only thing I voted on. The fact members there from the Conservatives did not agree with that I can’t help that.

“I came to the meeting, listened to the arguments and voted.”

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