‘A DARK day for democracy’ was how MP Matt Western described the approval of an appeal for 200 homes in Whitnash.
The Warwick and Leamington MP, along with residents, has been campaigning against the controversial plans to build up to 500 homes on land close to Chesterton Gardens since 2015.
But, after plans had been rejected twice by Warwick District Council’s planning committee on grounds of traffic, road safety, noise and pollution, developer AC Lloyd has successfully appealed against the decision to the government’s planning inspector who has granted the controversial plans.
The inspector concluded the altered appeal proposal demonstrated up to 200 homes could be ‘comfortably accommodated on the appeal site and could achieve a very high level of quality’ along with public and open space.
Among residents’ fears were that the proposed vehicle access to the site, via an existing residential area, would threaten safety to pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.
But the developer’s report said highway experts had approved the access plans and independent road safety audits had been undertaken with some ‘minor recommendations’ to be incorporated in the final designs. It argued it was suitably visible and that plans would generate around 200 extra vehicle movements – just under two a minute.
A second access may be considered as part of wider development plans, but campaigners remain sceptical over a lack of details.
Warwick District Council also faced a backlash for not objecting to the appeal.
Council leader Andrew Day said the authority had received legal advice that the planning committee’s refusal was not supported by ‘sound technical or planning reasons’ and the limited chances of defending the decision were not worth the potential impact to public funding.
Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western said: “This is a dark day for local democracy and for the future of South Leamington.
“I can only apologise to Sydenham residents that we were not able to prevent this unsustainable and damaging development that I have been fighting since 2015.
“The hundreds of residents who campaigned against it can be so proud of their efforts. But the leaders of Warwick District Council should hang their heads in shame – utter shame.
“They failed to submit evidence against the development during the appeal process despite councillors on their own planning committee twice rejecting AC Lloyd’s application.
“They abdicated their responsibility to residents, to democratic convention and to planning probity.
“Their decisions will have sent a clear signal to big developers in our region that building unaffordable homes in the wrong places comes before the wishes of the residents they purport to represent.
“Serious planning reform must take place to prevent applications like this from ever being approved again – and that will not happen with this Government in power.
“Now the fight continues to ensure the creation of a crucial second access road to alleviate residents’ concerns.”
In response to the MP’s accusations, a council spokesperson said: “Following the decision of the planning inspector, we will review the circumstances of the development application and take appropriate steps going forward to improve as an authority.
“In the meantime we will continue to focus our resources and energies on addressing resident’s concerns about the provision of a safe, second access to the site.”