Hopwood Residents Association and its community look as though it may be let down yet again by our local ward councillor and the Conservative majority of members who make up the district council Planning Committee.
Our councillor, the council leader Roger Hollingworth, urged the committee to overturn the planning officer’s recommendation rather than representing the local community’s view which supports refusal of such inappropriate development in the Green Belt.
He was elected to represent local people and when asked why he was speaking against the views and opinions of the local community he said: “Because I don’t agree with them”.
Coun Hollingworth justified recommending acceptance of the development through a recent conversation he’d had with the government planning minister Nick Boles, who, he said, had suggested that, in looking at housing proposals in the Green Belt, “common sense should prevail”.
The councillor also told the committee the site was actually a brownfield one, despite the planning officer’s findings.
So at a couple of strokes he was inviting long-standing district council and national Green Belt policies to be set aside and that the officers’ considered advice about what could and could not be permitted for the site to be ignored.
Hopwood residents are not impressed by such pressure. We had it before and the Ombudsman found this council and its councillors guilty of maladministration, but they seem to be suffering from a bout of amnesia.
We want our planning committee to adhere to recognised principles of planning and uphold their own policies instead of going off on tangents after receiving a sermon from the leader of the council, whom we felt had no reason for speaking at this meeting as he was not representing any views from the local community, a supposed reason for him being elected.
Development on this site would be altering the Green Belt boundary without a Green Belt review having taken place, a provision which is needed for development to take place in the Green Belt outside village boundaries.
That is a stipulation laid down by Government in paragraph 83 of the National Planning Policy Framework and also in the District Local Plan.
If such a development were to be allowed it would be encouraging encroachment and setting an irreparable precedent for the district that would contravene legislation laid down by the Localism Act.
However, the ward councillor and leader of the council appears to have taken his own Green Belt review prior to any real one being needed, and without telling anybody until now.
We say to the planning committee: refuse the application using correct procedures. If the applicant wants to appeal, then let them. If it’s then allowed it’s the government’s fault and not the district council’s.
Hopwood Residents Association