OTHAM LATEST: Petition launched to challenge council role in decision-making
Tuesday 26th January 2021
A PETITION has been launched to persuade Maidstone Borough Council's senior leadership team to wrest control of key decision-making back to elected members in the wake of the controversial Otham housing appeal.
An appeal over a 400-plus unit scheme was upheld in favour of Bellway Homes earlier this month, sparking anger among opponents.
Elected members had rejected the development in Church Road three times before the Bellway challenge in December before planning inspector Stephen Normington.
We understand elected members have been summoned to a meeting on Thursday to discuss legal avenues to challenge the inspector's decision.
Last week, MBC's head of legal, Patricia Narebor, warned that there may not be grounds for a judicial review into the decision and that there is a six week timeframe after the appeal decision to launch a challenge. She warned against "going on a fishing expedition".
Now David Hatcher, of the Chapman Avenue Area Residents' Association, has launched a petition urging unelected officers at MBC to support councillors in their deliberations.
The petition citation reads: "As a result of recent planning decisions that have crippled south-east Maidstone with traffic congestion that will only get worse, we urge Councillors to exert more control and authority over the Planning and Legal Departments to achieve support for their decisions to improve the infrastructure for Maidstone on our behalf.
"For too long now we have seen the Maidstone strategic planning process suffer under the influence and ideas of Council Officers working too closely with landowners and developers, rather than be the source of viable options that improve rather than continually degrade conditions for existing residents.
"Please sign to acknowledge that we wish to see the Chief Executive and Senior Management at Maidstone Borough Council provide stronger support to the decisions of Councillors, rather than formulate their own agenda and a planning strategy under the Local Plan that appears to be derived from the planning department and developers wishes.
"At the next local council elections, regardless of which candidates you support, make it clear we want council employees to support and facilitate our elected representatives’ decisions, rather than operate an agenda of their own."
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