16:36 Saturday 08 February 2014

Council defends chairman appointment in plans appeal row

Written byLAURA HAMMOND

Rolleston playing fields old college site. Rolleston playing fields old college site.

COUNCIL chiefs have defended their decision to field a potentially unsympathetic councillor to represent the authority’s views in a controversial planning appeal.

East Staffordshire Borough Council is prepping planning board chairman Councillor Martin Blencowe to defend its refusal of the College Fields application in Rolleston – despite the fact he voted in favour of the application at committee.

Those against the 100-house development argue he is an ill-qualified and unsuitable choice to represent the views of the committee in the four-day hearing, on March 4, but an authority spokesman disagreed.

A spokesman for the authority said: “It is entirely appropriate for Councillor Blencowe to represent the views and decision of the members of the committee. He has begun to prepare his evidence following a meeting with planning officers and the council’s barrister.”

The committee turned down the plans in November because they were in direct conflict with the village’s neighbourhood development plan, which is in its final stages. The site, which was the field of the former Forest of Needwood School, is earmarked for development in the borough council’s emerging local plan, but as it has not yet been adopted, councillors concluded the neighbourhood plan had more weight.

Burton MP Andrew Griffiths, who has backed opposition to the plans for some time, said: “Councillor Blencowe voiced his support for the development, and the concerns are he will not be able to properly represent the planning committee’s views.”

Heidi Light, clerk to the parish council, said at its last meeting: “The College Fields is the stumbling block in our neighbourhood plan and all the work that has gone into it from the village could be completely wiped out by an approval at appeal.”

The parish council will be fielding its own representative against the appeal by Burton and South Derbyshire College.

Residents are worried the development would cause huge traffic problems and make the area unsafe for people living there, among other issues.

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