Battle to save open space fails

THE CONTROVERSIAL plan to build a house on a tiny plot of green open space in Hucknall has been given the go-ahead behind closed doors – despite demands for a public meeting.

The Dispatch revealed last month that an application by Ashfield District Council for outline permission for a detached house and garage on the site next to 44 Astral Grove.

The land is also owned by the council and it is their job to decide on the application.

Residents were up in arms because they had secured funding to turn the land into a green oasis and were previously assured it wouldn't be built on.

However, despite several objections, a decision has been taken to pass the application and not refer it to a full planning committee where the public would have been able to speak out.

This happened because none of the councillors for Hucknall West ward, which includes Astral Grove, 'called in' the application for a full discussion.

The chairman of the planning committee, Coun Rachel Madden (Lib Dem), also decided against 'calling it in'.

Now Hucknall's Labour MP, Paddy Tipping, has slammed the decision and sparked a row with the ruling Liberal Democrat group on the council.

"I think they have been ignorant and arrogant," blasted Mr Tipping.

"The application should have been discussed by councillors because it is controversial.

"That's what I asked them to do and they are using sleight of hand to stop that from happening.

"I am deeply disappointed and distressed that three councillors from the area (Liberal Democrats Austin Rathe, Louise Bradshaw and Harry Toseland) did not safeguard local people by ensuring it was 'called in'.

"Public open space is important to all of us and the council should adopt a policy of not selling it off.

"They have not listened to the voices of local people, councillors and the MP.

"What they have wanted is the money from the site and it is as simple as that. It is a real travesty."

However Coun Rathe, who is also deputy leader of the council, hit back at Mr Tipping.

He said: "He shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the planning laws.

"Coun Madden makes decisions on a non-political basis and he knows that.

"She is not making a decision as a Liberal Democrat but as a councillor and expert in planning.

"I spoke to her at length about this application and she had to make a decision in line with planning laws that have been made by the Labour government.

"It's easy to point at us on this after 20 years of Labour being in control of Ashfield District Council when plans to build on Garden Road and the Wigwam in Hucknall went through. It's pretty rich.

"Mr Tipping should be the minister for bandwagons. In reality, what we are trying to do is get the best for Hucknall."

Last year, plans for two houses on the same site were withdrawn after a campaign by residents.

Local resident Sally Wyatt, of Astral Grove, led the latest fight but fears a precedent has now been set.

She has written to the Local Government Ombudsman about the decision and told the Dispatch: "The whole thing stinks. We have been railroaded.

"I do not know how they can do this." At least at a planning committee, people can go and have their say and hear the arguments.”