September 19 2014 Latest news:
Friday, August 22, 2014
Councillors are being urged to approve controversial plans for a housing development to prevent more than £100,000 of taxpayers’ money being wasted at appeal.
Forest Heath’s development control committee were “minded to refuse” the fiercely-opposed proposals by Crest Nicholson for 374 homes on land east of Red Lodge earlier this month.
But planning officers are concerned about the committee’s reasons for this – access, education and sewerage – saying they are “ill-founded and not grounded in evidence”.
Objections centred on the impact upon capacity and the attainment of pupils at St Christopher’s Primary School in Red Lodge, as well as on the sewage infrastructure.
But the officers’ report said the available evidence demonstrated access, education and sewerage would not be adversely impacted.
The committee is being asked to grant planning permission on Wednesday, but the council would not be able to issue consent without authorisation from the Secretary of State.
The officers’ report said: “In the absence of evidence to substantiate its reasons for refusal and the presumption in favour of sustainable development set out in the National Planning Policy Framework, officers consider it would be difficult to defend a potential claim for the award of costs at appeal.
“An award of costs against the council is likely to have significant financial implications and when combined with its own costs is estimated to exceed £100,000.”
Warwick Hirst, cabinet member for health, leisure and culture at Forest Heath, said in an email to the council: “In my view we will lose any appeal and get the developers costs as well. We are going to spend £120,000 of residents’ money in a reckless action.”
The governing body at St Christopher’s Primary School, which strongly objects to the application, said in a letter to the council that further building works to expand the school would “exacerbate the on-going distractions” from teaching that occur when a school “continues to endure so much on-going change” related to building works, staffing and rapidly-rising pupil numbers.
Peter Diffley, managing director of Crest Nicholson Eastern, said they were hopeful of a good resolution.