Cabinet member’s controversial planning application being looked at again
Planning committee told its previous decision could be ‘unlawful’
By Natalie Bloomer
Plans by a leading councillor to build a cottage in a conservation area are being recommended for refusal after an earlier nod through by his Conservative colleagues has been considered as incorrect.
West Northants councillors on the Daventry Planning Committee previously approved the application for the construction of a new house on land in West Haddon despite officers recommending it should be refused. But it will have to go before the planning meeting again tomorrow after concerns were raised by a resident.
Cllr Malcolm Longley, who is cabinet finance member on the West unitary, is hoping to build a four bedroom detached house and garage on the land at West End which is in a conservation area and subject to a tree protection order.
In December when the application went before the planning committee, council officers said: “It is considered that the proposed two storey thatched dwelling and the detached garage fronting on to the street will have a detrimental impact on the character and appearance of this piece of open space that would fundamentally change its character and appearance due to the loss of the openness of the land and the prominence of the two storey dwelling and the associated double garage.
“Furthermore, it is considered that due to the level changes proposed to accommodate the dwelling at the street level, the proposal would potentially harm the tree roots of the TPO Trees within and adjacent to the site”
The planning committee, which is made up of seven Conservative councillors, one Labour and one Lib Dem, decided to vote in favour of the proposals anyway.
Councillors Cecile Irving-Swift and Rupert Frost (both Conservative) declared an interest in the application as friends of Longley and left the room during the discussion and vote. Lib Dem Cllr Rosie Humphries declared that she was a neighbour to the site and also left the room.
Labour’s Wendy Randall proposed that the application be refused in line with the officer’s advice but her proposition failed due to a lack of a seconder.
However, despite the committee supporting the plans, the decision was not issued after a local resident warned that granting planning permission would be unlawful.
The council has sought legal advice which suggests the way that the committee assessed the impact on the trees was incorrect and that members should have also given “proper, adequate and intelligible reasons for its decision not to follow the recommendation of its professional officers”.
Now officers are recommending that the previous decision be rescinded and that the application be refused.
Cllr Longley, is a retired engineer and was the councillor given the responsibility for finances at the county council after it went bankrupt. He is one of three cabinet members at WNC who are Freemasons (a third of the cabinet) and has declared to the council a financial interest in 81 properties or pieces of land mainly across Northamptonshire, Bristol and Warwickshire.
Another planning application to be heard by the committee tomorrow also involves Longley. The proposals are for two industrial units at Manor Farm Works in Barby have been put forward by George Muir who is a director of McGowan Investments where Longley is also a director.
The company’s website says that as well as owning a range of commercial properties it also owns and manages residential homes and student accommodation. Cllr Longley’s wife Valerie and George Muir’s wife Karen are also directors.
The planning meeting will take place at 6pm tomorrow.
Only one of Northamptonshire’s seven MPs had publicly said they voted against the prime minister in yesterday’s confidence vote at the time NN Journal published.
Northampton South MP Andrew Lewer was one of 148 Conservative MPs (41 percent of the parliamentary party) who said they no longer had trust in the PM.
Lewer released a statement saying:
“Everyone makes mistakes and often they should be allowed to move on, but an ingrained pattern of behaviour and a culture that has developed around it is a different matter. It is not just about ‘a party’ or ‘work related events, etc’.
South Northamptonshire MP Andrea Leadsom recently went public with her criticism of Boris Johnson but has not said how she voted. Corby MP Tom Pursglove, Wellingborough’s Peter Bone and Northampton MP Michael Ellis all tweeted their support for the under siege PM yesterday. Daventry’s Chris Heaton Harris, who is chief whip had retweeted other MPs giving support to the PM. The notoriously quiet Kettering MP Philip Hollobone did not make any public comment.
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