A Government ombudsman will look into claims that Bradford Council’s handling of two major planning applications for houses on fields in Menston was a “shambles”.
The Menston Action Group (MAG) had reported the handling of the applications, one by Taylor Wimpey for 135 houses on Bingley Road and another by Barratt Homes for 173 houses off Derry Hill, to the Local Government Ombudsman late last year.
They claimed the authority’s Regulatory and Appeals Committee had failed to give the applications proper consideration before approving them after a five hour meeting in April last year.
Among their complaints are claims a report they had commissioned for £25,000 that showed the site was a flood risk was not shown to members of the committee before their vote, and that councillors didn’t even get off a bus during a visit to the site, half way through the meeting.
The group has now been told the complaint has been passed onto the investigation team at the Ombudsman’s office, and an inspector will soon be allocated.
Shipley MP Philip Davies has backed them in their campaign, and is so angry at the applications being approved he is pushing for a Parliamentary debate on the issue.
Dr Steve Ellams, chair of MAG, said: “Philip Davies has backed us and asked for a full investigation in the House of Commons. I don’t think the Council will be able to refute the evidence we have passed onto the Ombudsman.
“The whole process has been wrong from the start.”
He said councillors the group had spoken to claimed they were pressured into approving the applications due to the threat of appeal, and MAG have also written to the council’s solicitors to call for an internal investigation into the committee’s conduct.
Mr Davies said: “I think the group has an incredibly strong case and there are some serious questions about how Bradford Council has handled the process and applications generally.
“They seem to have operated on the basis that the land will be built on come hell or high water, no matter what objectors say.
“I hope the investigation finds favour with the complainants.
“I’ve been trying to secure a debate in Parliament about this issue, I keep trying to secure a debate but it is up to the speaker’s discretion. I will continue to apply for a debate on this issue – that’s how serious my concerns are. It has been a shambles.”
A spokesman for Bradford Council said they would be unable to comment on the issue until the investigation was complete.
The Local Government Ombudsman office confirmed they were looking at the complaint, but would not be able to comment further.