PLANNERS who approved more than 1,700 homes in one fell swoop earlier this year have come under fire following allegations they should never have supported the developments.
Members of East Staffordshire Borough Council’s planning board gave the nod to three controversial developments in Outwoods, Stretton and Branston earlier this year after members were told the homes were needed to meet housing targets which had recently risen.
But now a planning consultancy has said in its opinion the reasoning was flawed, as the target they were given had not been officially adopted by the full council before it was put forward.
In the report, which was completed by Kirkwells on behalf of Stretton and Outwoods parish councils, which are fighting the developments, the company says: “In our view, members and officers were acting outside of the constitution.”
Just three months before the developments got the green light in July, they had been turned down by the same planning board.
Little had apparently altered in the applications when they were brought back and recommended for approval.
Officers at the meeting said the U-turn had been forced by the increase in housing requirement, which had gone from under 9,000 between now and 2031, to just under 12,000.
But Kirkwells said there was no evidence it had been considered by the cabinet or the full council – something they said was essential for making policy changes.
A spokesman for the authority said: “The meeting was entirely in accordance with the council’s constitution and code of conduct”
Following the decision, the two parish councils clubbed together to fund a barrister to look into the process and see if they could challenge it at judicial review
Both the barrister and Kirkwells supported their case, but the authorities have decided not to go ahead.
In a joint statement, they said: “Due to the costs of pursuing a Judicial Review Challenge, each council separately decided that it could not afford the spending, probably in excess of £20,000 of its precept, even if it was available.
“Both parish councils are now exploring what further actions could be taken.
“Residents who are unhappy with the approval of these planning applications can write to the council and then to the Local Government Ombudsman.”
Protest group Friends of Outwoods has embarked on a similar path and is trying to raise funds for further action.