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‘Transparency’ plea

Posted on June 30 2018 at 2:59:03

Independent councillors are calling for the review of Bromsgrove’s local plan to be halted while fears of a “perceived conflict of interest” are investigated.

The move came after Barnt Green independent Charlie Hotham learned consultants Wood Plc had been appointed to help with the sustainability appraisal of the draft local plan.

Wood are the co-authors, with GL Hearn, of the Greater Birmingham Housing Market Area Strategic Growth Study.

This contains the idea of a new “garden village” of up to 15,000 homes on Green Belt land between Alvechurch and Barnt Green, since dubbed “Barntchurch”.

District councillor Kate Van Der Plank told Alvechurch parish councillors the independents were “dismayed” by the discovery.

Fearing residents may lose faith in the plan process, Coun Hotham tabled a motion to Bromsgrove’s June full council meeting seeking a suspension of the review.

The motion said: “The potential conflict of interest surrounding the BDC plan review is deeply concerning.

This has been brought about by the council employing the co-author of the Hearn-Wood study as consultant to advise on our own plan review.

“This has created the impossible circumstance whereby the average Bromsgrove resident is highly likely to lose faith in the impartiality of the plan review process.”

Coun Hotham’s motion urged the council to suspend the plan review “until such time as residents, developers and elected members can have faith that, via an independent audit, the review is being and has been conducted in an open and transparent manner and that no perceived or actual conflict of interest exists”.

Coun Hotham later told Barnt Green parish councillors: “The motion was deferred and an auditor, who is separate from the council, is going to see if there is a conflict of interest.”

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