PLANNING officers have been accused of pressuring councillors into approving an application for 120 new homes next to Fairford Football Club.

Some Cotswold District councillors and Fairford residents said they felt like members of the planning committee were being pressurised by officers to give the application the go ahead.

In the end, councillors rejected the scheme, although extra information came to light later which means it will be reconsidered at the next planning meeting.

At last week’s meeting, Cllr Carole Topple said: “I feel like we’re being beaten into a corner. I feel we can’t refuse this application and that’s sad.”

Fairford resident and leader of Fairford Planning Watch, Malcolm Cutler, was also at the meeting and said he was appalled at the pressure applied by the planning officers on councillors to approve the application.

“I congratulate the councillors who stood up to this appalling pressure and not only voted for the application to be refused, but also gave strong and clear reasons why it should be refused,” said Mr Cutler.

One reason for refusal was that councillors felt Thames Water had not explained how the sewer system in the town would be improved to tackle ongoing flooding issues.

However, other committee members said they did not agree that officers had done anything wrong.

Fairford councillor Ray Theodoulou said the pressure had come from the Planning Inspectorate rather than the officers, who were aware that trying to fight legal battles against developers was a costly business.

“Officers know that when they see developments approaching, they have no alternative,” he said. “They have very limited choices and they know the members don’t like the applications.”

Tetbury town councillor Stephen Hirst said he did not feel threatened by the officers at the meeting.

“Officers just told us the facts they had,” he said.

Read more on this story HERE