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Labour threat to 'call in' all 'major' planning applications

Ruling Conservatives on South Kesteven District Council defeated a move from opposition members to have all ‘major’ planning applications come before committee.

Labour leader Phil Dilks told last week’s meeting of the full council he was “shocked” to read in the Grantham Journal that the “gigantic” XPO Logistics warehouse at Easton was approved under delegated powers - these allow planning applications to be decided upon without the involvement of a planning committee .

The old warehouse, which had burnt down, was 9m high, but its replacement will be five times higher at 46 metres - two metres taller than the tower of St Wulfram’s Church.

There would also be a new plant room, new roadways, and parking for 68 HGVs and 263 cars.

Coun Dilks said: “It’s a lot. It’s big and all passed through on the nod of the chairman (of development management committee).”

He said the nearby Easton Walled Gardens opposed the scheme, saying the size of it threatened its business and employees, adding: “We have denied them the right to come in here and put their views forward.”

However, council leader Matthew Lee said the application was approved under an open and democratic process and processes had been followed.

But Coun Dilks said the application should have come before committee to let people have their say. He said: “It affects the reputation of the council. It’s about democracy.”

Coun Lee responded the process was “transparent” and not one opposition councillor had ‘called in’ the scheme to ensure the committee determined the application.

He noted the scheme brought £67 million of investment and secured 300 jobs, with 200 more ‘on the way.’

He added: “It shows we have a Conservative administration driving forward change and investment. We have an opposition fluttering around the edges, seeking to pass blame.”

Coun Bob Adams (Con), whose ward includes the site of the scheme, said a decision had to be made quickly to avoid the jobs being lost to other places outside the district.

Coun Ashley Baxter (Ind) said not bringing the application before councillors shows why people get cynical about council decisions.

He said members were given “PR spin” about the scheme, members were sworn to secrecy during a pre-application meeting and felt he was being “fobbed off” by the applicant. He said he understood the argument over jobs, but bringing an application before committee allows members to improve a proposal.

Cabinet member for growth and communications Helen Goral said SKDC had ambitious plans for growth and opposition members should consider the “huge ramifications of making processes complicated”.

Before the ruling Conservatives won their vote, Coun Dilks said no-one ‘called in’ the application as they believed it would come to committee.

He threatened: “If you turn down this motion, I will call in every major application.”

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