South Gloucestershire Council branded 'incompetent' after failing to decide Yate Town FC's clubhouse plans
An artist's impression of Yate Town FC's new clubhouse, which South Gloucestershire Council failed to decide on
SOUTH Gloucestershire Council has been accused of ‘shocking inappropriate behaviour’ and ‘spectacular incompetence’ at an appeal into plans for a housing development and new clubhouse for Yate Town Football Club.
The authority was taken to appeal after failing to decide on the application for 210 homes and the redevelopment of Lodge Road last year.
Christopher Young, a barrister on behalf of developers Bloor Homes and Sydney Freed Holdings, told planning inspector Neil Pope at the appeal which started on Tuesday: “There is a great deal of interest in this appeal and it is perhaps important when people will hear claims by the council that they are committed to the efficient progress of applications for much-needed housing, that the full picture of spectacular incompetence or shockingly inappropriate behaviour is revealed.
“The council point blank refused to engage in respect of this application and for the £50,000 application fee, my clients received one email. That is the only response they have had. £50,000 for one email. That is hugely serious.”
Mr Young claimed the council repeatedly refused to meet with his clients to discuss the proposal and said they would be making a full application for costs.
“If the new planning minister wants an example of where a planning authority is operating in a truly shocking manner, then this is perhaps on of the best case studies my clients can provide,” he said.
“There is a statutory obligation upon the local planning authority to determine applications. It is not for the local planning authority to decide which applications it wishes to consider and those it wishes to ignore.
“The right of appeal, which my clients are exercising at this inquiry, is the only way in which some applications in South Gloucestershire can actually be determined.”
The inquiry heard that the council received the application in May 2012 but did not validate it until July and delayed a committee decision on the plans until December, by which time the developers had already lodged an appeal for non-determination.
Councillors did, however, agree that they would have refused the application on the grounds it was premature ahead of the emerging Core Strategy, a planning blueprint laying out housing plans for the next 20 years, and the impact it would have on Engine Common.
Council solicitor Suzanne Ornsby said the development was not sustainable.
She said: “It will have an unacceptable and inappropriate impact on the form, character and function of the village of Engine Common, which is a wholly unsuitable location for this level of housing.”
The council argued it has a five-year land supply to meet demand for housing but, Ms Ornsby said, determining the Engine Common before an additional hearing into the Core Strategy was held today (March 7) was ‘premature and prejudicial’.
Evidence from Mike Keenan, of the Save Engine Common action group, was submitted. He called the plans ‘grotesquely inappropriate’ as they would see Yate and Iron Acton become one.
“There is virtually no support for the development, apart from the developers and a few supporters of the football club,” said. “However, opposing the plans are the 250 local people who signed the Save Engine Common petition, the parish council, South Gloucestershire Council which excluded it from the Core Strategy and the planning committee which mauled the whole application to within an inch of its life.”
Irene Rockcliffe, on behalf of local farmer Tim Stone, told the inquiry the ownership of the land, on what was formerly known as Craig Affie Farm, was in question and Mr Stone believes he has a legal claim over the site.
The four-day appeal is due to reconvene on Monday and Tuesday next week and Mr Pope will decide on the plans within six weeks.