BROMSGROVE planners decided to defer a decision on the controversial application to build hundreds of new homes in Whitford.

The application from Catesby Estates Ltd and Miller Homes Ltd went before Bromsgrove District Council's planning committee meeting yesterday evening, (April 28).

Residents crammed into the authority's chamber to hear a lengthy debate on the outline application for 490 homes on land off Whitford Road.

Officers recommended the application be given the go ahead provided the applicants paid thousands of pounds towards traffic improvements, including junction improvements and traffic management.

But members of the Whitford Vale Voice group and ward councillor Luke Mallett attempted to demonstrate, through slides and videos, that the improvements would not go far enough.

Coun Mallett said: "Evidence shows there will be a severe cumulative impact.

"I would suggest to members that this application could lead to gridlock."

But the concerns were rejected by the applicants. Greg Mitchell, from the applicants' agent Framptons, said there were no technical reasons on which the application should be refused.

He added it was a sustainable development, creating jobs, and the concerns of a severe impact on roads was not supported by evidence.

Worcestershire Highways, the advisory body to the committee, had raised no objection to the scheme. During members discussions it came under fierce criticism, particularly from Tardebigge councillor Peter Whittaker.

He said Bromsgrove had not had the investment in road infrastructure other towns had received, the town was already gridlocked, and the only solution was to build a Western bypass, taking traffic away from the town centre.

His comments and others made by councillors against the application, were applauded by people sitting in the public gallery.

Stoke Prior councillor John Tidmarsh questioned why Worcestershire Highways had not talked to other transport bodies, but Steve Hawley, from Worcestershire Highways, said it did not need to consult as it already had in-house experts.

Marlbrook councillor John Ruck said there were diametrically opposed views between members and highways officers on the issue.

A motion was proposed to defer the item, so further meetings could be held to look again at traffic concerns.

A vote was taken, the majority of members voting in favour of deferral.

After the meeting, Mr Mallett said: "Considering the highways authority did not object, the fact almost every member of the committee felt a decision could not be taken with the gaps and differences in information highlights the huge problems with this application.

"Whitford Vale Voice prepared hugely compelling evidence based on the developers' own traffic analysis which shows potential queues the entire length of Fox Lane, and into the proposed development itself.

"This is clearly a severe impact."

Roy Dixon, Whitford Vale Voice's chairman, said: "It was heartening to the local community to hear that the councillors have the same concerns as residents.

"These include the ever increasing traffic in the area of Fox Lane and Whitford Road, the lack of any reference to traffic problems in Millfields and the loss of the only future opportunity that the town will have to build a bypass to the west of the town.

"If this application is approved I shudder to think of the effect that both it and the upcoming Perryfields application will have on journey times across the town."

A spokesman for the developers said: “Our outline application at Whitford Road is accompanied by a full transportation assessment, the methodology of which was approved by the Local Highway Authority culminating in them raising no objection.

"The assessment follows best practice and sets out appropriate mitigation measures to deal with traffic arising from the scheme including significant financial contributions to improve the highway network.

“We would be willing to meet all parties again to discuss matters raised at committee.”