Council condemns bullying developers

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LOCAL authorities could be given more protection from the ‘bullying’ tactics of developers as part of the Localism Bill, councillors in Whaley Bridge have been told.

Town Councillor Ron Bowden said authorities were running scared of being left with hefty legal bills if they refused planning applications and were then challenged by developers on appeal.

He said: “The developers can employ the best people in the country to battle the borough. They are frightened to death of them because they will throw millions at it to crush a particular local borough on appeal.

“A lot of local views are not taken into account because people like borough are frightened. They know at the end of the day the cost to them.”

Members of the Town Council took the opportunity to raise their concerns with High Peak MP Andrew Bingham at their monthly meeting when he was quizzed on a variety of topics.

Mr Bingham said in relation to planning appeals: “If the council are deemed to be unreasonable they get costs awarded against them.”

He said an invoice of £55,000 for example was the equivalent of a one per cent rise in council tax.

“Big developers or whoever can afford it and there is an element of bullying,” said the MP.

He explained that the government was looking at making changes in the Localism Bill towards addressing that issue.

Cllr David Lomax highlighted a further problem that if an application was approved on appeal then conditions could not then be imposed on the development.

Councillors also called for the views of the local communities to be taken into account.

Mr Bingham said the new Bill would also give parish plans more influence.

“You may want to look at doing that in Whaley Bridge,” he said.

“You may have a big disagreement between yourselves but at least it is a disagreement within a group of informed people.”

The need for more affordable housing in the area was also raised.