"The Council will resist the appeal and defend its decision to refuse the planning application" Councillor Derek Antrobus, Planning Lead Member July 2011
"It has been resolved by the Council that it will not defend either reason for refusal at the Inquiry" September 2011
Last July, amidst some of the most chaotic scenes ever witnessed at a planning meeting, Salford councillors eventually decided to refuse Peel Holdings outline permission to build 350 houses on the greenfield site of Burgess Farm in Walkden.
At that meeting, before the decision to refuse was finally passed, Councillor Derek Antrobus, the Council's Lead Member for Planning who was in support of Peel's plans, had tried to get the decision nulled, to cries of `cheat' and `disgrace' from the public gallery (see here for full background).
A few weeks after the decision to refuse planning permission was passed, Peel Holdings informed Salford Council that, not only was it intending to appeal against the democratic decision of the planning committee, but that it was to demand full costs from the Council (ie Salford tax payers) to pay for that appeal (see here).
Even Councillor Antrobus put out a statement which read "The Council will resist the appeal and defend its decision to refuse the planning application". But residents learned yesterday that Salford Council was now backing down and won't defend any appeal by Peel Holdings at a Public Inquiry.
A letter sent by the Council's joint venture company, Urban Vision, to local residents states "It has been resolved by the Council that it will not defend either reason for refusal at the Inquiry".
The reasons given for the refusal at the planning panel in July were the negative impact of traffic from the new development, and that Salford Council didn't need to build on a greenfield site to meet its housing supply.
Now the Council via Urban Vision states that having "taken legal advice on these matters…it is now clear that the reasoning around not releasing a greenfield site at the time the Panel made its decision…cannot now be substantiated."
It continues… "In short the Council cannot produce evidence at the Inquiry that will show it has, as required by the Government, a 5 year deliverable housing supply."
The letter also quotes a whole load of ConDem Government planning gobbledegook about extra land being given over to housing.
It adds that, on the impact of traffic from the 350 houses, "it will be extremely difficult…to show there would be a material adverse impact on the highway network...The absence of such would most likely be seen as unreasonable behaviour by the Council thus attracting an award of costs."
The letter to residents concludes: "It has been resolved by the Council that it will not defend either reason for refusal at the Inquiry" and adds, very graciously "As a local resident your representations will still be considered by the Planning Inspectorate and you are able to attend the Inquiry as previously advised."
Since that letter was posted to residents, because Salford Council has ducked out of defending the Burgess Farm site, the Salford Star now understands that there won't be a Public Inquiry at all.
We understand that Peel Holdings will re-submit its application to Salford Council, which will be fast-tracked to another Planning Panel – but this time the councillors will pass the plans for the destruction of the greenfield site.
Residents may well be wondering what the hell is going on - and, er, who runs this city...
• A democratically elected panel of councillors refuses a big developer planning permission
• The Council's Lead Member for Planning tries to get that decision voided but fails.
• Big developer appeals against the decision and takes it to a Public Inquiry, demanding costs.
• Council states that it got its facts wrong and might lose the Inquiry. Council rolls over and allows big developer a free hand to destroy greenfield site.
• Residents left in lurch, scratching heads wondering where democracy lies in Salford.
* Anyone who wishes to oppose the ConDem Government's new planning proposals can sign the Planning For People petition here, along with over 37,000 other people... https://www.planningforpeople.org.uk/?campid=PLAN1#firstUnit