Lord Nelson campaigners dismiss claims of ‘political pressure’ from Tout Ltd

Campaigners gather against the proposed development of the Lord Nelson site at Cleeve.

Campaigners gather against the proposed development of the Lord Nelson site at Cleeve. - Credit: Archant

Campaigners have rubbished claims plans to bulldoze a former pub have been hindered by ‘political pressure’, calling on North Somerset Council to reject the proposals.

The Lord Nelson, in Cleeve, has been vacant for more than two years as owner Tout Ltd attempts to secure planning permission to demolish it and create a petrol station and convenience store in its place amid concern from villagers.

The developer – which operates Budgens stores in Langford and Nailsea – last week told the Times it intends to appeal to the Government to intervene and make a decision on the plans after a 14-month stalemate with council officers.

Managing director Jon Tout said his firm has agreed with North Somerset Council for the application to be refused to allow Tout to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate (PI) to ensure the plans ‘get a fair hearing’.

He said the council indicated the plans would be recommended for approval but ‘political pressure’ placed on planning officers prompted them to encourage the developer to withdraw the application and resubmit it after the upcoming council elections in May, or have the plans refused to subsequently appeal to the PI.

Mr Tout added an inquiry is ‘a ridiculous and expensive outcome to what should have been a straightforward local decision’.

But villagers fighting to save the building have dismissed Mr Tout’s comments.

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Ian Fergusson, spokesman for the Friends Nelson Group, said: “At this time we have seen no formal case determination and won’t speculate what the decision may be. We have no idea what the statement from Tout Ltd bases its wording upon.

“We have seen no evidence approval was ever indicated, let alone on three occasions.

“In contrast, we understand a recommendation for refusal was being communicated to the applicant as far back as September.

“The notion of determination delays being some political conspiracy bears no scrutiny. In our view – and albeit we don’t yet know the outcome – the council has fairly and extensively examined the case with due impartiality and diligence.

“We do, however, agree with Tout Ltd this should have been a ‘straightforward local decision’. That straightforward decision should have been a ‘no’, many months ago.”