North Somerset Council’s ‘extraordinary’ U-turn over Congresbury housing plan

PUBLISHED: 09:00 21 January 2017

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North Somerset Council planners have been accused of ‘ignoring’ the authority’s newly-adopted planning policy, after an objection to 50 new homes being built in Congresbury was seemingly dropped at the last minute.

The application put forward by Gladman Developments could see the homes built off Wrington Lane.

The application will be decided by a planning inspector in March as Gladman lodged an appeal after the council took too long to make a decision, but North Somerset’s planning committee was still given the chance to specify whether it would have approved or refused the plans at its meeting on January 11.

Officers had recommended the application be refused, but they then submitted a surprise proposal to withdraw their refusal – on the basis that highway concerns had now been fixed – to the committee just two hours before the meeting got underway. Councillors still voted to refuse the application in principle, although the final say will rest with the planning inspector.

Congresbury councillor Tom Leimdorfer told the village’s parish council on Monday he felt officers were encouraging councillors to ignore the area’s core strategy, which was adopted the day before the planning meeting. He said he felt the application contravened the core strategy as the homes would be built outside Congresbury’s settlement boundary.

Cllr Leimdorfer said: “I think those of us who were there (at the planning committee meeting) were a little bit surprised by certain aspects of the process, particularly the way the recommendation was changed just a couple of hours before the meeting.

“It certainly seemed as if senior officers were directing members to ignore the core strategy, which we adopted just the night before and which does have considerable weight.

“I think it is extraordinary officers were recommending the council should withdraw its objection.”

Parish councillor Janet Dickson said the development would be unfair on people living in Wrington Lane and nearby Cobthorn Way if it is approved.

Cllr Dickson said: “I think people living in Cobthorn Way are getting a bum deal here.

“Now it (North Somerset) has agreed to the core strategy, I cannot see why they are just ignoring it.

“What’s the point of having a core strategy policy and then ignoring it straight away?”

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