A CONTROVERSIAL plan build 330 home on the site of the once iconic Tall Trees hotel near Yarm has been approved.
Stockton borough councillors previously rejected the plan but council legal officers used special powers to defer the vote because they argued the reasons for refusal were not strong enough.
This time the council's Planning Committee was presented with a published barrister’s letter which said the council would likely lose an appeal and face costs if they finally decided to refuse permission.
Manchester barrister, Alan Davies, said the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework rules and the fact the council does not have an adequate five-year supply of new housing, meant the authority would lose.
In the end seven councillors voted against the proposal and seven for, but the committee chairman, Bob Gibson, cast his vote to allow permission to local businessman Javed Majid.
The proposal includes plans to provide football and cricket pitches and pavilion facilities. However 54 objectors wrote to the council, many arguing the number of new housing developments approved in the area will put intolerable strain on traffic and infrastructure. The approval means that permission has been granted for more than 3,000 homes across South Stockton.
During the meeting Coun Steve Walmsley, leader of the Thornaby Independents, said: “These decisions are going to come back to bite us. I think it’s about time we said, ‘right, enough,’ and think again.”
Coun Ken Lupton, Conservative leader, said: “We cannot continue to develop in one part of the borough just to satisfy our five-year housing requirement. I would remain against this proposal.”
However Coun Jim Beall, Labour deputy leader of the council, said he would change his vote to ‘yes.’ He said: “I will reluctantly vote for the application based on legal advice. I still do not agree with it, but the legal opinion is irrefutable.”
After the meeting Yarm councillor Mark Chatburn, UKIP, criticised the Government NPPF rules and called on the area’s MP, James Wharton, to campaign against them.
He said: "For the area's Tory MP to constantly blame the council for approving these decisions when he has failed to lodge an objection to a single one and when he supports his Government's planning policy is laughable. He needs to stop playing politics and treating residents like fools, and actually lobby the government to reverse their destructive changes to the planning system."
Mr Wharton refused to respond directly to Coun Chatburn, but did say the blame should lie with Stockton Borough Council.
He said: “The reason that Stockton council keeps passing planning applications is because of the failure to meet its five year supply."