Here is an extract of a letter I have sent to the Planning Inspector regarding the Ledsham Road Appeal which starts today:
I am one of the ward councillors for Ledsham and Manor, and I have been involved with the present and former planning applications for the land south of Ledsham Road since 2002.
I am emailing with the request that you pass this email to the Inspector dealing with this appeal. Sadly I am unable to attend the hearings in person as I am unable to get the necessary time off work. I had hoped to even at this late stage hut it has proven impossible.
Having been intimately associated with the various plans for the site over 13 years, I hope the Inspector will consider the points below in their deliberations.
I have every confidence in, and support for, the Ledsham and Manor Action Group (LAMAG). Over almost two decades they have built up a level of knowledge and expertise in relation to this site which is unrivalled. When the application subject to appeal came to light, as the ward councillor I organised a public meeting which was extremely well-attendeD by several hundred people. As residents we discussed the matters at length and unanimously resolved to reform the local Action Group, to make a detailed case for refusal of the applications for this site, and also develop reasonable amendments which could be made should the site be approved. I have been extremely proud of the work done by local residents on this, not least by the co-chairmen of the Action Group, Mr Penness and Mr Phipp. The planning committee found the reasons for refusal as presented by LAMAG highly persuasive, leading to refusal in the first instance.
In my 13 years as the local councillor I have only had four residents express support for this site. Yet this area has experienced substantial growth in housing in the last 20 years, none of which has attracted remotely the same level of opposition as here. LAMAG’s reasoned, planning-based submissions were persuasive to the original planning committee, and I would submit that they remain no less applicable today. For these reasons they have my absolute support now, as they have done throughout. They are the response of my whole community and I trust you will see them as such.
In terms of the way the applications were handled, I would ask you to note the following points, not as direct planning grounds for upholding the refusal, but as to the substandard way in which these matters were handled by the council, and presented by Redrow.
The original planning meeting was supposed to decide the principle of development on the site and then consider the detailed application for what Redrow call the first phase. This was reflected in the published agenda, and what the then-chairman of Strategic Planning, Cllr Greenwood, confirmed to me by phone in the days before. His unilateral swapping of the order of business, done at the meeting without prior notification, was disreputable, underhand, and deeply unprofessional. It harmed the position of the council as a fair arbiter Planning Authority. His change of mind as to how long I would be allowed to speak for took place in the same way, and as the only ward councillor able to speak, as my then colleague was a committee member, this was again damaging to the council and committee’s position.
During consideration of the resubmitted second application, the representative from Redrow promised the Committee that Redrow would withdraw this appeal if they were granted permission on the new application. That you are considering this appeal now demonstrates the quality of their promises. This meeting was recorded and broadcast online by the council should this be denied by Redrow.
Following this, I received personal assurances from the then-Leader of the Council, Cllr Mike Jones, and the director, Charlie Seward, that the council would robustly defend the original refusal at appeal. The subsequent meeting of Strategic Planning committee withdrew grounds for objection. Yet again the council behaved in a manner which I, even as an elected member of the then-controlling group, found thoroughly disreputable.
If the commitments made by the council to its members and residents, and applicants such as Redrow to the Strategic Planning Committee, are to count for anything, then I would respectfully request that you uphold the original planning decision, and do so on the grounds as set out by LAMAG and my residents.
Councillor Gareth Anderson.