CONTROVERSIAL plans for more than 70 homes in Gnosall have been passed by just one vote – to the fury of villagers.
More than 40 people packed into the public viewing area at Stafford Borough Council’s planning committee last night, where an outline application for up to 75 homes on land off Lowfield Lane was considered.
The proposal, by Providence Land Ltd, is the first of three recently submitted by developers for new Gnosall homes to be determined and more applications are expected in the coming weeks.
Mike Sullivan, speaking on behalf of the objecting residents, received a standing ovation from the audience following his speech. He said: “I have lived in the village for 28 years; in all that time I have never felt such a sense of community united by anger and outrage.
“We object to this application on the grounds of prematurity, totality and reality. Developers are preying on Gnosall at the moment because the local plan is awaiting approval.
“We believe it is premature for you to approve applications that render the plan obsolete. It is also premature until local people have a say in where developments go (under the Localism Act).
“We want to see Gnosall developed in a rational way that retains its character.”
But Dr Robert Wickham, speaking on behalf of the applicant, described the plans as a “positive” addition to the village.
Funds would be contributed by the developer to boost capacity at the village school, he said, and the homes would contribute to the five year housing supply required in the borough.
“It is in the right place and it will help to put off others that may not be as appropriate,” he added.
The committee was advised by planning officer Jon Holmes not to refuse permission on the grounds of prematurity unless there were “exceptional circumstances”.
He added that the application should be considered on its own merits, not in conjunction with other applications in the village. If the council delayed making a decision before the borough’s local plan was formally adopted – not expected until 2014 at the earliest - the case could be taken to appeal on the grounds of non-determination.
Councillor Geoff Collier said: “This application is going to change the character of the village. We are doing something that is not fair.
Councillor Ann Kelly called for the committee to refuse planning permission. But her proposal was defeated.
The committee approved the plans after six votes were cast in favour and five against, with two abstentions.
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Sullivan said he was disappointed with the result.
Fellow Gnosall resident Gail Gregory added: “I know the councillors felt extremely constrained by legality and I feel for them as individuals. My anger is directed at the Government; they give with one hand, with the Localism Act, and take away with the other.”