Council’s alleged ‘maladministration’ over housing decisions
PUBLISHED: 11:00 07 April 2016
A parish councillor has accused North Somerset Council of an ‘abuse of process’ after it allocated more than 600 new homes to one village – and is asking North Somerset MP Dr Liam Fox to intervene.
Yatton parish councillor Richard Westwood – who made the claims at a meeting of the parish council’s planning committee on Monday evening – believes plans to build 696 homes in the village were drawn up at the insistence of senior councillors, rather than as a result of Government policies as has been explained by the authority.
The council is under pressure to build 20,985 new homes across the district by 2026 following a lengthy battle with the Government over its core strategy planning document.
Of this figure, some 696 homes have been earmarked for Yatton, with 520 of these planned for sites off Arnolds Way, in the remote north end of the village.
The parish council’s planning committee voted at its Monday meeting Monday to write a letter to Dr Fox, asking the MP to ‘call in’ the council’s decision to grant planning permission to developers Bloor Homes and Hallam Land Management for 370 homes off Arnolds Way.
If Dr Fox agrees, the applications will then be determined by the Government’s planning inspectorate and North Somerset’s original decision of approval would not stand.
However, Cllr Westwood accused senior councillors at Monday’s meeting of asking planning officers to ‘make sure’ Yatton was hit with a high number of new homes and questioned whether the authority had acted lawfully.
He told the committee: “I am concerned that North Somerset’s senior councillors have driven this decision and that is why we are in the position we are in, not because the Government is forcing them to do this – it is not true.
“They (planning officers) are carrying through instructions, they have been asked to draw up a plan which involved making sure Yatton got the majority of the extra 600 houses, and I believe they have been instructed to do that by senior executive members.
“I believe what we are seeing now is a consequence of that.
“That, in my view, is something we need to question: whether that decision taken by senior councillors was lawful and is in line with Government guidelines and planning policy guidelines.
“They (councillors) keep on saying about the greenbelt and how the Government will not let anyone build on the greenbelt – that is not exactly the whole truth.
“There is room for manoeuvre as far as the greenbelt is concerned. It has national guidelines, but there is a little bit of room for wriggle.”
Cllr Westwood also told the committee he would be happy to work with parish council clerk Aleana Baird to write a draft version of the letter, which will then be formally considered again by the committee at its next meeting in two weeks’ time.
He said: “I am happy to put a letter together to highlight what is apparently going on in front of our eyes and question whether North Somerset are acting lawfully. Someone has got to question this and this is our chance to do this.
“It is a maladministration or abuse of process as far as North Somerset is concerned.”