PLANNING inspector Simon Hetherington has rapped Redditch and Bromsgrove councils after they proposed an 18-month delay into resolving controversial plans to build 3,400 new homes at Webheath and the village of Bentley.
Mr Hetherington had expressed intital disquiet at the plans at an inquiry at Redditch town hall and suggested that they either be shelved or re-worked.
Opting to look again at the proposals, last week the planning departments of the two councils put forward an extensive programme of works to shore up their reasons for building at the sites, which would see 600 new homes at Webheath and 2,800 at Bentley in Bromsgrove district.
However in a withering appraisal Mr Hetherington hit out at the councils’ failure to address the ‘weakness in analysis and justification’ he had identified in their original plan for choosing those particular sites.
Campaigners at the Webheath Action Group (WAG) and Bentley Area Action Group (BAAG) have long claimed that the justification dice had long been loaded against them by borough and district planners.
The Inspector also slammed the councils’ decision to do more work than he had asked them to do – including a review of the greenbelt.
Instead he urged the councils to focus on the issues he had identified in a manner which ‘explains the justification for that choice with reference to the evidence’.
He closed by asking the councils to ‘submit a revised programme, with the aim of concluding both examinations within a shorter timescale.’
WAG chairman David Rose said: “My personal view is that RBC/BDC have messed up again.
“Mr Hetherington has reminded them that they have to look at the focus area appraisal and give the justification for their choices – that is, quote the evidence, which they have never done.”
A spokesperson for Redditch and Bromsgrove councils said: “We can confirm that Inspector Michael Hetherington has submitted his response to the councils which we currently considering.”