Huge row breaks out between Conservatives and Labour-Lib Dem opposition on Pendle Council over new planning rules

A huge row has broken out at Pendle Council between the ruling Conservative group and the Labour-Lib Dem opposition coalition over planning rules.

The Tories have accused their opponents of “piling on cost and confusion”, while Labour in turn accused the Tories of “hijacking the planning decision process”.

Illness caused the Conservatives, who hold a majority of just one, to lose almost all the votes during the last two Full Council meetings.

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The argument centres around a Tory decision to move from the former area planning committees to a more centralised system.

A row over planning has broken out at Pendle Council

Council leader, Coun. Nadeem Ahmed, said: “Their behaviour has been nothing short of disgraceful. They have been piling on costs and complexity in equal measure. At the last Full Council, they rejected our sensible legal framework for the new planning committee, which forms part of our necessary Transformation Programme.

“Instead, they formed what they termed to be a ‘democratic’ working group, where the Conservatives, by far the biggest party, were outnumbered two to one! This working group developed its own framework for the planning committee. I stated I did not agree with it, but that we would be voting for it, simply to move on.

“At this point, they were warned that the planning committee could not operate without a legal scheme of delegation. Former Labour Leader, now independent, Coun. Mohammed Iqbal, accused my party of ‘scaremongering’. Unbelievably, they then voted against their own document, claiming they need more time to consider the issues.

“However, we were not scaremongering at all. The council took a decision in May to move to a single planning committee. The resolution was that planning powers would cease for area committees from September 1st. With no scheme of delegation agreed, currently no planning applications in the borough could be determined - an invidious position.”

However, Labour argued that the Tories’ decision to remove local planning committees making decisions on local planning applications had caused wide-spread unhappiness among opposition councillors and many residents across Pendle.

Labour group leader Coun. Asjad Mahmood said: “The Tories were elected on a promise to stand up for local people against development on some of our cherished Greenfields.

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"By trying to force through a central planning committee taking away local democratic accountability without any public consultation is fundamentllly wrong and my colleagues cannot support this ludicrous idea.

"The Tory leadership need to be honest with the people of Pendle why they are against local area committees made up of local members listening to local residents before voting on important planning decisions.”

Coun. Mahmood also accused Tories of trying to vote through minutes which were factually wrong at the last council meeting, which were defeated by a majority of councillors.

However, Tory deputy leader, Coun. Mike Goulthorp, said: “In Pendle, we deal with over 80 planning applications per month typically. Over two thirds of these were previously dealt with by planning officers. Now, however, all councillors must hear every single one in bi-monthly, marathon sittings.

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"Even then, the advice we have received is that we will only be able to provide a basic planning service, albeit a costly and slow one. We can only hope that the mischief-making opposition coalition quickly comes to its senses by December, which is the next time the scheme of delegation can be considered.”