Controversial planning decision in Eaglescliffe, Stockton referred to the ombudsman

Darlington and Stockton Times: Stockton council Stockton council

A HIGHLY controversial plan for new homes is to be referred to the ombudsman.

It is the latest twist in what has been a tortuous planning application which at one point led to accusations that Stockton Borough Council had “tried to bully its own planning committee".

The housing development at Urlay Nook, near Eaglescliffe, is for 145 homes, a relatively small estate, but across south Stockton more than 3,000 new homes are in the pipeline and a large campaign group, Save Stockton South (SSS) has been formed to fight the scale of development.

Stockton Borough Council, which blames the Government for relaxing planning rules, originally rejected the Taylor Wimpey plan, arguing it would impact on protected ‘green wedge’ land.

However Taylor Wimpey submitted an altered application which was narrowly passed last month despite 550 objections. Council officers had written to councillors on the planning committee and given them a barrister’s legal briefing arguing the council would lose an appeal.

That led to accusations of the council “trying to bully its own planning committee” from MP for Stockton South James Wharton, who wrote to the secretary of state asking for the decision to be ‘called in,’ or re-examined.

The accusation of bullying, reaffirmed by Mr Wharton today (Thursday, December 12), was firmly rebutted Councillor Jim Beall, deputy leader of the council and a planning committee member who said he doubted any member of the committee would feel pressurised.

The authority defended itself, arguing it would in fact have been negligent not to give the councillors the legal advice and the Government decided not to call the decision in.

Now, in a last ditch attempt to stop the housing development going ahead, Angela Bannatyne of the Keep Eaglescliffe Special campaign group has asked the Government appointed inspector, the ombudsman, to investigate.

Mrs Bannatyne explained she had asked the ombudsman to investigate the council’s decision to send the legal briefing to planning committee members which she argues was putting undue pressure on them.

She said she had already approached the council’s legal team, but they had declined to investigate. She said: “Question is, will the Government do anything? I suspect not. Blind leading the blind springs to mind.”

Comments (1)

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5:03pm Tue 17 Dec 13

simpsonm says...

Now Mr Wharton is confirming bullying tactics on behalf of Stockton Borough Council. He should know he is well known for bullying others on a regular basis
Now Mr Wharton is confirming bullying tactics on behalf of Stockton Borough Council. He should know he is well known for bullying others on a regular basis simpsonm

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