The Labour chair of Derby City Council’s planning committee has defended his decision to give controversial plans for a tower block in Alvaston the green light.
The proposal for 122 apartments, off Raynesway, attracted over 400 objections from local residents.
Ten councillors met last night to determine the plans – five of them Labour members. Each one voted in favour of the scheme, while five opposition councillors voted against.
With the vote tied at 5-5, the plans were passed because the chair – Labour’s Shiraz Khan – had the casting vote.
The outcome led to accusations from the public gallery that Labour members had been “whipped” into voting for the scheme before the meeting was held.
Residents have also vented their fury on the Derby Telegraph’s Facebook page. One described the Labour administration as a “dictatorship”.
Labour’s Shiraz Khan (middle) chairs Derby City Council’s planning control committee
Speaking to the Derby Telegraph, Mr Khan insisted the green light was justified and that no-one in his party had been told how to vote by its leadership.
He said: “There’s never been any interference from anyone else. Members read all the details and the officer’s advice and make their own mind up on which way to vote.
“I’ve never been asked to vote a certain way by the leadership or a cabinet member. I wouldn’t listen if they did – I believe in looking at an application and voting on its merit.
“As a responsible council, we have to look at the legal advice and consider whether there would be any grounds to defend the decision if it went to appeal. In this case, in my opinion, there were no justifiable reasons, in planning law, on which to reject the application.
“If we did pass it and it went to appeal, the council could lose and then you’d be doing a story on how the legal costs were a waste of public money.”
An artist impression of the scheme
At the meeting, it initially appeared the plans had been rejected, five votes to four.
Mr Khan then said the plans were passed, prompting residents to erupt in fury.
When the shouting stopped, Mr Khan said he had voted in favour, making the vote five-five.
Objectors and opposition councillors claimed he didn’t raise his hand during the vote – an accusation Mr Khan denied.
Speaking afterwards, he said: “I did raise my hand – clearly some didn’t see me. But both the legal officer and head of planning saw me put my hand up.
“In the future, we will probably be made to raise our hands up a bit higher.”
The outcome means developer Blom International can now build 122 apartments across two buildings on the corner of Raynesway and Belmore Way, subject to it meeting a string of Section 106 planning obligations.
Called Entrada Derby, one block will be eight storeys high and the other three.
UKIP’s Alan Graves, who represents Alvaston, spoke out against the plans during the meeting.
Afterwards, he said residents felt “appalled, angry and perplexed” at the outcome.
He said: “No councillor on the committee spoke in favour of the scheme. There were several who questioned the validity of the application, including a Labour councillor [Diane Froggatt] but she then went on to vote for the development.
“Nobody answered the question about whether the council would get a sweetener from the developer if the application was approved.
“At the very least, the application should have been deferred.”
Source: Derby Telegraph