Homes plan review to go-ahead after objections withdrawn

The council's temporary home in Miller's Yard, while its Adam and Eve Street HQ is redeveloped.
The council's temporary home in Miller's Yard, while its Adam and Eve Street HQ is redeveloped.

A review into the decision by Harborough Council to replace a major planning document just a year after its adoption will go ahead after a group of councillors withdrew their objections to it.

Former council leader Mike Rook and fellow Conservative councillors Grahame Spendlove-Mason and Colin Golding had called-in the decision by the authority’s new leadership to launch the review.

It meant the matter was to be discussed at a scrutiny meeting this week, but it was revealed at Monday’s full council meeting that they had withdrawn their call-in.

However councillors branded the call-in process farcical this week after it emerged the scrutiny meeting still had to take place before the review could be recommissioned.

Held at The Three Swans Hotel last night (Tuesday) it lasted just two minutes as councillors decided the review should go ahead as originally decided.

It will examine the background to a decision in December to scrap the council’s Core Strategy in favour of a Local Plan, increasing the number of homes to be built across the district over the next 20 years by about 1,000.

The County Solicitor Of Leicestershire County Council is now to be asked to commission the review from a third party on behalf of the district authority.

The review was launched by the council’s new leadership under Conservative Cllr Blake Pain earlier in the summer but was blocked by Cllrs Rook, Spendlove-Mason and Golding. It is not clear why they later withdrew their call-in.

At Monday night’s full council meeting, councillors from both the Lib Dem and Conservative groups on the authority questioned the need for the scrutiny meeting in light of the withdrawal of the call-in.

But the meeting heard it was written into the council’s constitution that a scrutiny meeting must take place before the call-in can be lifted.

Speaking after the briefest of brief meetings on Tuesday, Lib Dem group leader Cllr Phil Knowles said: “I now await the outcome of the investigation [into the Local Plan decision] and hope to see the resulting report made public and available but there are other questions that need to be addressed internally after tonight.

“We need to look at the processes and protocols, to see why no stop mechanism is available. Secondly and importantly we need to know just how much all of this has cost.

“I fully support the call-in mechanism - it is in the constitution. When the signatories decided to put this call-in forward they started a process that resulted in considerable amounts of officer time, the cost of legal advice being sought and much more culminating in the calling of a Special Scrutiny Panel Meeting.

“When the signatories then decided for what ever reason to withdraw their signatures the cost did not stop, the process continued and we ended up with a specially convened Scrutiny Meeting lasting all of two minutes. I have already advised the officers that I will be seeking the information about just how much all of this has cost.”