Councillors challenge Ironbridge housing vote

A challenge has been lodged with Shropshire Council over the controversial new development near Ironbridge.

LAST COPYRIGHT SHROPSHIRE STAR STEVE LEATH 06/11/2019..Ironbridge Power Station demolition..
LAST COPYRIGHT SHROPSHIRE STAR STEVE LEATH 06/11/2019..Ironbridge Power Station demolition..

On Monday this week Shropshire Council's planning committee held a vote on plans to redevelop the disused Ironbridge Power Station site, with the application being approved by six votes to four.

However, four councillors - Andy Boddington, Caroline Bagnall, Tony Parsons and Richard Huffer - are challenging the legitimacy of the vote.

They have written to Shropshire Council's legal team saying that one the councillors should not have been able to cast a vote, adding that the vote should be called again and work on progressing the application be put on hold in the meantime.

Councillor Boddington wrote on his website: "Precedent and probity dictate that planning committee councillors cannot vote if they had not listened to the entirety of the presentation by officers, along with representations by objectors, supporters and the developer. Councillors on the committee must also be present during the subsequent debate leading up to the vote.

"One of the Southern Planning Committee councillors left the committee room during the Ironbridge debate for a short period. Despite this he was allowed to make a statement and vote without having heard the full arguments."

The councillor in question is David Tremellen, who voted in favour of the application.

The outcome would be unlikely to change even if the vote was called again, but the challenge is being lodged 'on a point of principle'.

Councillor Boddington said: "Given this major application, the biggest Shropshire has ever considered, I am appalled that it has been run like this."

He added that the process was 'shoddy'.

The letter to Shropshire Council states: "Our belief is that the vote on Monday was not valid. We are calling for work on awarding the planning application to be paused. We also ask for the vote to be held again to ensure its legitimacy."

There have also been claims that the authority was putting pressure on councillors to approve the plans and would not have supported councillors if they had elected to refuse the plans.

Speaking to BBC Radio Shropshire's political reporter Joanne Gallacher on Thursday morning, Shropshire Council's assistant director of place, Tracy Darke, said that members would have been supported in any appeals process had they rejected the application.

Tracy Darke said: "This is a fine line around professional ethics. We have to ensure that we put a strong case for the council, we have to defend the council's position, but it might not be appropriate for one of my officers who has recommended approval for the application to be the person who is actually grilled on the stand on the day. So we just have to make sure that we support members, and we get the right person to go to appeal if that is the case."

We went to Shropshire Council and asked for clarification on the rules for members voting, and to find out whether or not the vote can in fact be called again. At time of going to press we had received no response to our query.

We have contacted Councillor Tremellen for comment but at time of going to press he was unavailable.

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