Campaigners call on Government to take controversial planning decision away from Milton Keynes Council

    Angry opponents of a controversial plan for a block of flats have appealed to the Government to take the decision out of the hands of the council.

    Residents and parish councillors are furious over the way in which a Milton Keynes Council policy changed to allow more homes on land off Hindhead Knoll, in Walnut Tree.

    They’ve asked for the local government secretary to “call in” the issue and lodged a complaint with the Local Government Ombudsman.

    The new policy increased the density of homes on the site from 11 to 30.

    Campaigners said the policy was adopted with no direct consultation.

    The council says the changes were published and Plan:MK was approved by borough councillors at a meeting of the full council.

    Background papers at Thursday’s development control committee confirmed the change was made after “verbal discussions” between the council and Milton Keynes Development Partnership (MKDP).

    A Freedom of Information request by campaigners revealed there is no paper trail behind the decision.

    MKDP is a company owned by the council tasked with “promoting the development of its land assets to deliver economic and social value.”

    The effect was to gazump the Walton area’s neighbourhood plan, which had been put together by residents and approved in a referendum.

    The committee was told it doesn’t matter how the policy was arrived at because the local plan, Plan:MK, was approved.

    Senior planning officer Jeremy Lee said: “How the policy was arrived at cannot be taken into consideration.”

    And he said that the secretary of state was “unlikely” to call in the decision, although the council has to wait until that is confirmed before issuing its official decision.

    He recommended that councillors should approve the Grand Union Housing Association plan. It includes 11 “affordable” homes.

    Objector Stuart Copeland, of Walton neighbourhood plan working group said: “It blows our plan out of the water.”

    “We had no idea that the changes had been made until it was too late.

    “It defies logic and democracy.”

    Phil Hardy, of Grand Union Housing Group, said: “It is a huge regret that we’ve not convinced the local community.”

    But he said the not-for-profit company, which is based in Kents Hill, owns 12,000 homes and has 27,000 customers, is committed to getting on with the local community.

    Cllr John Bint (Cons, Broughton) said as there was no paper trail, it “was not a proper decision.” He said the policy appeared as “one-point text” in Plan:MK.

    “I did not see this one sneaking under the radar,” he admitted, calling for an inquest into how the policy was changed.

    Committee chairman Cllr Anthony Brown (Lab, Tattenhoe) agreed that the committee should be told what happened.

    But councillors were called on to make a decision.

    Cllr Terry Baines (Cons, Campbell Park & Old Woughton) saw no other option but to support the council’s policies.

    “It’s a horrible situation but the local plan has got to take precedence,” he said.

    Councillors voted to give the plan the green light by seven votes to three, with one abstention.

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