Following the very surprising decision by the planning officials at Bolton Council to request the withdrawal of one of the four strands of our defence in the Lee Hall planning appeal, I wrote this letter to the Bolton News. I believe it explains why my Conservative colleagues and I all voted to retain the strand, so that our defence would be as robust as possible.
I was shocked to hear at the recent planning committee meeting that Bolton Council’s planning officers felt the need to withdraw one of the four strands on which they are defending the decision to deny permission to build 300 homes on Lee Hall, Westhoughton.
The decision to withdraw was based on a recent planning appeal for Blackrod, a decision I fully believe to be bad law. The Blackrod decision prevents Councils from being able to rely on their housing development plans; plans that cost a lot of time and vast sums of taxpayers’ money to put together.
The decision states that Councils can’t rely on developments granted planning permission when deciding whether to grant more planning permission in an area and must instead only look at developments that have either started building or have been built.
This is ludicrous and empowers developers to sit on vast swathes of land without building anything, in order to force Councils to allow them to build on cheaper-to-develop land. This is a decision that needs to be challenged, and challenged soon.
Planning appeal decisions are not binding on later cases – they do not set precedents. Nevertheless, by withdrawing this strand of the Lee Hall defence, Bolton Council is supporting the idea that the Blackrod decision is correct and making it more difficult to challenge this decision at a later date.
My Conservative colleagues and I voted to keep this strand of the Lee Hall defence in place at the planning meeting but, sadly, we were voted down by the Labour group. I feel this was the wrong decision by Labour, and it weakens our ability to defend our case unnecessarily.
Cllr Zoë Kirk-Robinson,
Westhoughton North and Chew Moor
The Lee Hall appeal will be held at a public inquiry starting on 5 July 5 at 10am in Library Lecture Theatre 1, Central Library, Le Mans Crescent, Bolton. Officers expect it to last four days. I have already expressed my intention to speak at this inquiry, and I urge you all to do the same.