MAJOR planning decisions could be made outside the jurisdiction of Cotswold District Council, after it was revealed that the authority was on the verge of being put into special measures.
The announcement was made by Cllr Robin Hughes, chairman of CDC’s planning committee, during a debate at the January planning meeting in which members refused an application for 120 homes in Fairford.
Cllr Hughes told the committee that, in light of its recent record of failed planning appeals, there was a “real danger” of the council being assigned special measures.
This would allow developers of major products to submit planning applications directly to the Planning Inspectorate and completely bypass CDC’s elected planning committee.
Cllr Nick Parsons, cabinet member for forward planning, said that, to avoid special measures, the committee must only reject future applications when there is a valid reason for doing so, even if “there is overwhelming opposition from local residents”.
He also said that the council currently meets the required time taken to determine its major applications.
CDC recently lost an appeal in the High Court to overturn a decision made by the Planning Inspectorate to build nearly 300 homes in Tetbury.
The council, which had originally refused permission for the 289 homes last February, was fighting to overturn an intervention by the Secretary of State to allow the build to go ahead.
Further criticism was heaped on CDC’s planning committee in 2011 after it failed to deliver an up-to-date Local Plan that would set out the district’s development requirements up until 2031.
The leader of CDC, Cllr Lynden Stowe, said that the committee members were “quite right” to support communities in their objections to unwanted developments but that central government had taken a different view.
“The coalition government has moved the planning policy goalposts on a regular basis and it looks as though there is now very little scope to oppose unwelcome development,” he said.
If special measures were introduced, CDC would join only a handful of other councils across the country to be stripped of its decision making powers.
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP for the Cotswolds, told the Standard that special measures would be “extremely unwelcome” as it overrides localism in planning.
“I will do whatever I can to prevent the government nationalising planning decisions in the Cotswolds. We do not want decades of careful planning ruined in a few years of unrestrained growth,” he said.
The MP has planned to discuss the situation at a meeting with planning minister Nick Boles and the leaders of both Cotswold and Stroud District Council.
Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, Lib Dem leader on CDC, said it would be a “disaster” if people outside the area were given the power to decide where houses are built.
“It shows that the council’s administration has lost control due to its lack of a Local Plan and five year housing supply,” he said.