Council climb-down prompts fresh demand for sale of open spaces to be scrapped

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01 Mar 2011

Council leaders in Newcastle have withdrawn two controversial planning applications for housing development on public open spaces amid growing opposition from residents and fierce criticism by the town’s MP Paul Farrelly.

Mr Farrelly welcomed the Council’s announcement that it had suspended applications to build on the first sites  - at Repton Drive and Winchester Drive, in the Westlands - and on all other areas of open space until a review is carried out.

His comments came when he and action group members met the Council’s Chief Executive, John Sellgren, to hand over a petition signed by 2,400 residents protesting at the planned development of sites at the Westlands, Clayton, Bradwell, Chesterton and Talke. 

In an embarrassing climb-down, the Council issued an official statement declaring that, while the delay did not mean that any sites had been removed from the list of those under threat, there would be no further planning applications until councillors have had the chance to examine the proposals.

The u-turn followed a decision last Wednesday when the Council, which is currently run by a Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition, bowed to pressure from opposition Labour members and agreed to refer the sell-off plan to their scrutiny committees.

The disposal programme was given the go-ahead in principle last July at a meeting held behind closed doors and this provoked accusations by Mr Farrelly and residents’ action groups that the Council was acting secretly and had failed to consult local people.

Mr Farrelly also wrote to Council Leader Simon Tagg warning that the authority could risk a potentially costly judicial review if the planning applications were to go ahead before the policy had been properly scrutinised.

Responding to the Council’s sudden climb-down, Mr Farrelly said: “The Council’s Cabinet has badly misjudged the anger of local residents and it should now have the humility to scrap the programme completely.

“Its behaviour has been one of arrogance and bungling incompetence and the controlling Cabinet should now have the decency to apologise to local residents and to tell them that it has got it wrong.”

Paul is pictured handing over the petition John Sellgren, Chief Executive of the Borough Council, with Janet Cheadle and Munro Blair, on behalf of local residents.