Factory plans bias claims are rejected

High Peak Council should be disbarred from ruling on Nestle’s planning application for a new bottling plant because it receives hundreds of thousands of pounds from the drinks giant each year, it has been claimed.

Buxton architect Paul Dinsdale says the Council should pass the decision-making process over to another authority because of the Borough’s financial interest in the project.

The council, as owner of the source of Nestle’s highly successful Buxton Water, receives a growing income from the firm.

But the planning officer’s report into the application, due to be heard next week, claims under the Council interest section: “None known.”

“I know few people who would not regard half a million a year as a substantial interest,” said Mr Dinsdale in a letter circulated to councillors this week.

“To me, that simple statement is not transparent, it is not legal and it is not fair.”

He claimed that a legal test case set the standard at “the reasonable perception by a disinterested third party that the circumstances could lead to bias, and that if that were the case, the body is obliged to act as if such bias existed.”

But Borough Council Leader Tony Ashton said: “As the local planning authority, the Borough Council has a legal duty to determine applications submitted to it. The Nestle proposal is no exception. Planning decisions are determined by the Development Control Committee through a quasi-judicial process in the light of national and local policies following professional assessment by officers, consideration of consultation responses, site visits and public debate.

“The Committee is not subject to political control and often determines proposals for the development of land and buildings in the Council’s ownership which will have an impact on the authority’s finances.

“I can assure Mr Dinsdale that the application will be determined transparently and fairly, and that views expressed by supporters and opponents will be taken fully into account.”