Defence of Milton Keynes development bible - Plan:MK - due to start next week

Councillors have urged their planning officers to throw everything they can into a defence next week of the council’s damaged development bible.

Friday, 10th January 2020, 2:05 pm

Plan:MK was only approved last year but councillors fear it has been torpedoed after a government planning inspector decided that Milton Keynes Council could not prove it had a supply of housing land for five years.Every council must have a five year land supply or developers can take the initiative to fill the gap.

Now one developer, Wavendon Properties, has been given the right by the government to reopen a planning appeal it had lost in 2018 for up to 203 homes at land north of Cranfield Road, in Woburn Sands.

Thursday’s development control committee heard that a public inquiry is due to start on Tuesday (Jan 14).Jon Palmer, MK Council’s head of planning said that inquiries next week and next month would test the issue and resolve it. He said: “We have taken significant extra work to defend our position.”

Thursday's development control committee

Mr Palmer said the council had hit its housing targets last year and performance was looking good this year.

A furious Cllr Andrew Geary (Cons, Newport North & Hanslope) said the council had failed to ask for a public inquiry at the vital Hanslope appeal, where the inspector issued a “rogue decision” which has potentially huge implications for Plan:MK.

Council solicitor, Nazneen Roy, said that legal challenge known as a statutory review had been served on the wrong person. However, this was corrected and accepted.

Permission for a statutory review was thrown out by a High Court judge on December 19.

The committee heard that councillors were sent an email saying in the small print that it was possible to appeal, but nobody grasped the significance. And none of the council’s officers picked up the phone and rang the politicians.

Cllr Geary said he hoped lessons had been learnt because there was a lot of anger, especially in Hanslope which has seen huge growth. He said he had been “struggling” to defend the council in public.

“We are in a very precarious position because of a rogue decision by an inspector who hasn’t done the maths right. The fact that the court won’t let us try to undo it is regrettable,” he said.

The committee debated and rejected lobbying MPs to try to get an act of Parliament to quash the original decision, and even compulsory purchase to stop the Hanslope developers.

But Cllr Ric Brackenbury (Lib Dem, Campbell Park & Old Woughton) said: “We have to win the appeal inquiry next week.

“We should do nothing to distract officers from being on top of this. That’s how we defend our five year land supply.

“We have to put everything we’ve got into defending this appeal.”