East Northants Council to review planning processes after decision on Warth Park extension

Concerns were raised after the planning meeting where an extension to Warth Park was approved
Concerns were raised after the planning meeting where an extension to Warth Park was approved

A review of planning processes will take place following concerns over the process which resulted in approval for an extension to Warth Park.

Despite strong opposition, councillors voted 11-6 in favour of the extension plans which will see two distribution buildings with warehousing and office space built next to the current business park in Raunds.

Approval was given at the meeting on March 29 and while this decision still stands, concerns over the process which resulted in the go-ahead being granted were raised at a full meeting of East Northants Council on Monday.

Cllr Dudley Hughes and Cllr Dorothy Maxwell had questions on the matter.

In the first of his two questions, Cllr Hughes, who voted against the Warth Park extension plans last month, said: “Concerning decisions at planning management meetings, am I correct in assuming that all decisions should be made on the basis of planning regulations and not with regard to business rates or potential costs of an appeal and I request that these considerations should not be discussed in future at planning meetings as they detract from the basis of making decisions based on planning regulations only.

“There is a grave reputational risk to the council if the public feel that decisions are made solely or partly on the basis there may be an appeal?”

As part of his response, the chairman said: “It would not be right for decisions to be made solely ‘on the basis that there may be an appeal’.

“However, it is legitimate as part of a debate for committee members to seek clarification, should they be considering refusing the application against the officer recommendation, of the likelihood of success at appeal and potential costs related to that process.

“It would be unusual for a local planning authority to disallow the consideration of such matters as part of the consideration of the wider planning balance on any particular planning application.”

Dave Prangley of the Warth Park Opposition Group was also allowed to read out a statement at the full council meeting, during which he said: “One of the final questions was by vice-chairman Mrs Mercer to the legal officer, asking what would be the cost to the council, should a subsequent appeal be lost – this was completely irrelevant to the subject matter, it should not have been asked, and again, immediately prior to the vote, would have had an emphatic bias towards a for vote.”

Following the meeting, a spokesman for East Northants Council said: “On 29 March, 2017, the planning management committee agreed an application to develop land at the end of Scalley Way, Raunds, on the site known as Warth Park.

“At the full council meeting on 10 April, some councillors expressed concerns about the process which resulted in the Warth Park application being approved. 

“After a lengthy debate, it was agreed that a review of planning processes would be carried out.”

To read more about the planning meeting on March 29, click here