Jubilant scenes as planners throw out Whitford Homes plan

JUBILANT: Councillors Luke Mallett and Margaret Buxton, and Whitford Vale Voice chairman Roy Dixon, were celebrating after the proposal to build hundreds of homes in Whitford was rejected. SP

JUBILANT: Councillors Luke Mallett and Margaret Buxton, and Whitford Vale Voice chairman Roy Dixon, were celebrating after the proposal to build hundreds of homes in Whitford was rejected. SP

First published in Local
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THERE were jubilant scenes as Bromsgrove planners rejected a controversial application to build hundreds of homes in Whitford.

The application, from Catesby Estates Ltd and Miller Homes Ltd, was to build 490 homes on land off Whitford Road.

It was the third time the proposal had been before Bromsgrove District Council's planning committee, having been deferred twice before by members over highways concerns.

Officers had recommended the application be approved. The officer's report pointed out the reasons for the last deferment had been resolved with a proposed Western relief road plan not being passed by county councillors, and Worcestershire Highways - the advisory body to the council - not changing its opinion that the developers' proposed mitigation would ensure no severe impact on the network.

At the meeting, held on Thursday, (August 14) passionate pleas were made by representatives from the applicants, and from Whitford Vale Voice (WVV) - the campaign group that has fought against the plans for more than a year.

Paul Brocklehurst, Catesby Estates Ltd's chief executive, spoke on highways concerns highlighting that Worcestershire Highways had determined there would be no significant impact. He added the only reasonable decision available to the committee was to grant permission.

But during members discussions it became apparent councillors felt there would be a significant impact on the highway network.

One major concern for councillors was the proposal to re-route a section of Whitford Road.

Worcestershire Highways had requested this in an attempt to discourage traffic using the Fox Lane and Whitford Road route, but several councillors criticised the plan saying closing this section of the road would lead to even more queuing.

Steve Hawley, from Worcestershire Highways, again faced tough questioning from members. In response, he commented the body was content with its highway data collected and used, and the worst case scenario had been considered before reaching its decision.

Stoke Prior councillor John Tidmarsh criticised Worcestershire Highways for not consulting with outside bodies, but Mr Hawley has previously said there was no need for this as it had its own in-house experts.

Councillors Peter Whittaker and Helen Jones moved to refuse the application and the seven members of the committee voted unanimously against.

After the vote, there were jubilant scenes as those in the public gallery gave a round of applause to campaign leaders including WVV chairman Roy Dixon and ward councillor Luke Mallett.

Speaking to the Advertiser, Mr Dixon said campaigners were absolutely delighted.

"The further on this has gone on the more we felt we had a better chance (of refusal).

"It has been a professional job."

He added he expected an appeal, but WVV had the quality and quantity of documentation to argue its case.

Cllr Mallett said: "The planning committee has clearly made the right decision.

“Despite months of asking, neither the developers or our county highways officers could provide evidence to support their claims that there is no problem with the roads.

"It defies belief highways experts could think that a scheme that potentially diverts thousands of cars into the town centre, and closed one of our three routes through Bromsgrove, could be a good thing.

“It is likely the developers will now consider an appeal - myself and my fellow Labour councillor, Margaret Buxton, will stand alongside the community in fighting these damaging proposals.”

A spokesperson for Catesby Estates and Miller Homes said: “We are disappointed with the decision - particularly as the site has been allocated for housing by Bromsgrove District Council, for a minimum of 470 houses, for more than 10 years.

"Our proposed development received no objections in relation to transport from Worcestershire Highways, or the Highways Agency.

"As a result an appeal will be submitted very shortly.”

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