Appeal costs prompt call for extra training

By Connie Osborne Friday 07 February 2014 Updated: 07/02 15:18

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COUNCILLORS have called for more training after being unable to defend a major planning decision at an appeal.

Following expert advice not to defend the refusal of 200 homes in Webheath, members of Redditch Borough Council asked for further training sessions for those sitting on the planning committee.

The application for the Pumphouse Lane site was turned down by councillors over traffic, infrastructure and highways concerns despite a recommendation by officers to approve the proposal.

But after taking advice from a barrister, the council was told its case was indefensible against an appeal by developers Taylor Wimpey and Barratt West Midlands due to a lack of evidence, and would cost in the region of £100,000.

Speaking at a recent full council meeting Coun Carole Gandy said members of the committee failed to provide enough evidence for their reasons behind refusal.

“If you’re going to do justice for the people we defend we need to be clear we have captured all the right reasons for defence. Then we might, or might not, be in a position to defend that application.

“With this application there were several reasons maintained by members of the committee that were not captured correctly.”

Coun Andy Fry, chairman of the planning committee, said: “I’m all for members to get training. I have already said to officers that I would like some members to have more training as you can never have enough training.”

But Coun Brandon Clayton said he believed planning officers were the ones who needed further guidance to be able to advise members on how they can refuse an application.

Coun Michael Braley added he also wanted officers to follow their own advice and provide the correct evidence needed to support a decision.

“I don’t understand now what is the purpose of a planning committee. If we turn down an application, we won’t be defending any of them in the future then,” he said.

“If we are not prepared to spend the money defending our decision developers will just walk all over us. It is open day on Redditch from now on, they will go where they like.”

But Coun Bill Hartnett, leader of the council, said members who wanted to serve on the committee had to complete training sessions to do so, while those who had sat on the committee before received top up training.

“I’ve been on planning for many years before and I have gone against a recommendation. As long as the decision is supported and it can be tested in an appeal it would not compromise a decision.”

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