A FURIOUS councillor has called for an investigation into the council’s own “biased” planning department and has accused it of being “not fit for purpose.”
Councillor Alan Amos, who has been a part of Worcester City Council’s planning committee for 11 years including a stint as chairman, said he has no confidence in the council’s planning department and has called for a ‘root and branch’ investigation for “completely ignoring” the views of the city’s residents.
Cllr Amos has demanded a meeting with council bosses to look into the performance of the department.
He said: “As city planning is now so blatantly biased in favour of developers, and takes no notice of residents, I now have no confidence in Worcester planning, which is clearly unfit for purpose.
“It seems to be acting as nothing more than an agent for developers whilst the views of local residents – in whose interests they should be operating and whose communities are being destroyed by these decisions – are completely ignored and overlooked.
“Even when developers change their plans, they are not charged another application fee so they are getting advise on how to get what they want free of charge.
“The lack of any enforcement action against developers and unauthorised works is now a joke.
“No wonder the department’s performance was recently found to have been so bad that the government was going to step in take it over and no wonder that planning fee income has fallen alarmingly this year.”
Cllr Amos said he has had “growing concerns” about how the planning department has operated in recent years encapsulated by a “disastrous” meeting last Thursday (January 23) when the committee U-turned on a plan for flats and bungalows in Malvern Road having refused it only a month earlier.
“That meeting perversely voted to overturn a decision – made by committee only a few weeks before, with nothing having changed – to refuse permission to demolish a large beautiful house in Malvern Road and build a monstrous block of flats and concrete over the garden,” he said.
A city council spokesman said: “There is an agreed procedure which is followed if members of planning committee are considering voting to refuse an application which has been recommended for approval.
“The committee votes to defer the application on the basis they are minded to refuse the application and there will then be a further report to a subsequent meeting.
“This examines the grounds for refusal in detail and gives a professional opinion on whether the council would be able to defend an appeal.
“After considering the second report the committee then votes to either refuse or grant permission.
“This procedure was agreed by the committee in 2008 and was reviewed in 2018, when the committee agreed to continue with it.”
The council’s planning committee last week (January 23) U-turned on a plan by Lockley Homes to demolish a large two-storey detached home known as ‘Mayfield’ in Malvern Road and replace it with six two-bed flats and three three-bedroom bungalows having refused it in principle in December.
During the planning meeting, Cllr Amos, appalled by the approval, said the committee had acted in a “perverse” manner and was setting a dangerous precedent.