The chair of Bolton’s planning committee said he is ‘angry’ with council officials who failed to tell him about a court case which quashed approval for a new supermarket in the borough.
Coun John Walsh said the first he heard that a high court judge had quashed planning permission for a new Lidl store and retirement flats in Bromley Cross was when he saw it on social media.
He has now said he has received a ‘contrite apology’ from planning officers who did not inform councilors during the legal process and promised that ‘lessons must be learned’ from the blunder.
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Coun Walsh was referring to the decision on January 13 by a high court judge to quash planning permission which was granted last September for a huge supermarket development on a 27-acre site off Darwen Road in Bromley Cross, which also includes 43 retirement apartments.
The case, which was not contested by Bolton Council, was brought by Co-operative Group Ltd, who themselves have a grocery store in the village, against the council.
It is understood that Bolton Council planners did not follow correct planning processes by only issuing a shortened version of viability data for the new development.
As a result of that case, a court order was issued by His Honor Judge Stephen Davies which ‘quashed the application is remitted to the defendant’s local planning authority for redetermination’.
Judge Davies also ordered Bolton Council to pay Co-Operative Group’s legal costs for the case which means the authority will hand over £12,532 to them.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Coun Walsh, said: “Shortly after the planning was confirmed the Co-Operative Ltd gave notice of their intention to seek judicial review.
“They argued that the full viability process had not been reported.
“Bolton planners then took the view that they had issued a redacted and truncated viability study and not the full version.
“The easiest way out of it was to agree to rescind the planning consent in consultation with Lidl because had it gone further it would have potentially taken many, many months in the courts.
“All sides agreed the application would be quashed and Lidl would come back with a revised application including a revised viability study.”
Coun Walsh said that he was extremely concerned that he, as chair of planning and other elected members were not kept informed.
He said: “I was only made aware of this because it was on social media.
“I am angry at this and have now had an assurance from officers that in future should such an issue arise the chairman, the vice-chairman and ward councilors would be informed at the outset and get a full briefing on all action being taken.
“I have since had a contrite apology from the officers involved.
“I’ve had a conversation with the borough solicitor and I’ve made it clear that members should be informed of these decisions.
“There have been a lot of lessons learned and I will be having further conversations about the proper involvement of committee and members in the planning process.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.