Gloucestershire Echo

Reprimand Council rapped over quarry plans

- Carmelo GARCIA Local Democracy Reporter

GLOUCESTER­SHIRE councillor­s have been reprimande­d and may have to undertake training after a decision to ignore planning officers’ advice has cost taxpayers more than £180,000.

Plans for a new sand and gravel quarry near the M50 and M5 were rejected by Gloucester­shire County Council last year.

Moreton Cullimore wanted permission for new access off the A38, a weighbridg­e, office and processing plant to be built on land at Bow Farm in Twyning.

However, the proposals – which also included a concrete batching plant, the creation of clean water ponds, silt ponds and stock piles at the 160-acre site – were met with strong opposition from hundreds of people.

A total of 257 people objected, raising concerns over noise, the health and environmen­tal impact of dust generated at the site and the impact it would have on nearby businesses such as Hilton Puckrup Hall Hotel.

Some 72 people wrote in support. And the planning committee voted to reject the scheme at a meeting on January 26 last year.

However, a successful appeal was lodged by the applicant and the rejection was overturned by a planning inspector.

The council was advised by barristers that “it didn’t have a leg to stand on” in defending it.

Chairman Mark Mckenzie-charringto­n (C, Stow-on-the-wold) told the committee on March 21 that it was a “salutary lesson”.

“It was a recommenda­tion by the officers to grant consent and reason known to individual­s they decided to refuse that consent,” he said. “It went against my views but we now know the magnitude of the cost to the council.”

He said that had the county council gone to a fully supported defence the costs would have been considerab­ly greater because they “didn’t have a leg to stand on”.

“We’ve got to be mindful of what officers have advised and reasons have to be based on sound planning policy,” he said.

But Councillor Bernie Fisher (LD, St Paul’s and Swindon Village) said it was a majority of the committee that decided and that was their prerogativ­e “If you want to do away with democracy we will have a rubber stamp made to go along with all officers’ recommenda­tions,” he said.

“By that it means all officers are absolutely right every time. Unfortunat­ely, like us they are human and get it wrong.”

He said people who can afford the most expensive lawyers win the cases. Cllr Fisher said he had no regrets over his decision and felt bad for the people of the area who will have to live with the developmen­t.

Cllr Chris Mcfarling (G, Sedbury) said he brought forward the proposal to reject the scheme because the impact of climate change needed to be considered as part of national regulation­s. He said 80 per cent of the county’s emissions need to be reduced in six years time.

“I regret the costs incurred but I feel it was a necessary precedent to set for the industry to say you’ve got to become more sustainabl­e much more quickly,” he said.

Cllr Susan Williams (C, Bisley and Painswick) said she voted against it because it was the morally right thing to do. She said she regretted the costs incurred but stands by her decision.

“Without us standing up and making these changes there isn’t going to be change in the future and it needs to start at county level as well,” she said.

And Cllr Alastair Chambers (CI, Coney Hill and Matson) said he was concerned councillor­s were being told how they need to vote. He said that did not sit comfortabl­y with him and he cited a time when they followed officers’ recommenda­tions only for the decision to be quashed and it cost the council £120,000.

“Officers aren’t always right,” he said. “We do need a proper discussion and some debate. What’s the point of us being here if we are told what to do.”

Cllr Tim Harman (C, Lansdown and Park) said he understood the frustratio­ns from colleagues. He asked if the costs would have a knock-on effect on anything else. Officers said the bill was paid as an authorised overspend.

 ?? Picture: Moreton C Cullimore/gcc ?? The plans for Bow Farm
Picture: Moreton C Cullimore/gcc The plans for Bow Farm
 ?? ?? Moreton Cullimore
Moreton Cullimore

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