Two Corby councillors accepted an invitation to tour the proposed site of a waste recovery project on the outskirts of town.
The visit to Brookfield Plantation, off Gretton Brook Road, on Sunday (September 29) was organised by Gretton Parish Council and only Conservative councillors Rob McKellar and Stan Heggs attended.
On Friday the council’s legal department sent a letter to all councillors, strongly recommending that members of the development control committee, including substitutes, did not attend the site visit to ensure their impartiality was maintained.
The tour was conducted by the land’s managing tenants Gwynn Morgan-Jones and Dick Bailey.
Cllr McKellar said, “There are only 11 councillors on the development control committee. That leaves another 17 who could have attended.”
The letter to councillors from the authority’s legal department stated: “Given the level of public concern it is understandable that some members may wish to take advantage of the offer to visit the site on Sunday 29th September 2013.
“However, for members of the decision making committee to attend this visit, organised by a third party that has raised opposition to this development would be inappropriate.
“The applicant’s agent is aware of the offer for members to visit the site and has already raised written concerns about the potential for attendance by members of the Development Control Committee.
“Accordingly, it is strongly recommended that any Councillor who sits on Development Control Committee including substitutes does not attend Sunday’s site visit. This would ensure that the impartiality of members is maintained.”
The letter stated that a site visit to Brookfield Plantation, if considered appropriate, would be organised by Corby Council officers and conducted in accordance with its procedures.
Gretton Brook Estates is seeking planning permission for the waste recovery park and a decision is expected later in the year.
Hundreds of letters of objection have been submitted to Corby Council along with a petition against the plan signed by 1,000 people.
Concerns have been raised by residents in Corby and the surrounding villages over the threat to wildlife, potential traffic problems, noise and smells from the site.
The company has already made changes to its planning application in response to consultations held earlier in the year.
They include a lorry watch scheme to tackle the problem of HGVs using inappropriate rural routes, additional cycling and pedestrian facilities, additional road improvements around the proposed site and a new woodland community group.
Cllr McKellar said: “The visit was extremely informative, we saw several fallow deer. We learned that the species have roamed in the Rockingham Forest area for centuries. We also saw numerous bird and insect species.
“It was particularly interesting to learn that although the plantation was restored from quarry land some 60 years ago, many of the tree and other plant species now occur naturally.”
Chairman of Gretton Parish Council, Cllr Andrew Royle, said, “We simply thought that the proposed meeting would allow councillors the opportunity to acquire further detailed information, mainly from an ecological point of view, in order that they could act in the best interests of their electorate.
“The meeting was never designed to be an opportunity to lobby councillors regarding our objection to the application and was simply an information gathering exercise.”