With controversy surrounding the approval of two planning applications in Oldham, including yesterday’s news of the suspension of the head of planning, the council has completed an investigation which it said showed “all procedures were correctly followed in line with legal requirements”.
A statement released today by Cllr Hannah Roberts, cabinet member for housing, said: “We have received a number of complaints in relation to the planning applications at Hodge Clough Road and Knowls Lane and the key areas have all been addressed and responded to.
“Where there are found to be more detailed and specific questions, those complainants will receive a separate response.
“A thorough investigation into the process has been carried out and we are satisfied that all procedures were correctly followed in line with legal requirements. The decision taken by the Planning Committee stands as we believe the developments are in the best interest of the borough.”
Regarding the news that Stephen Irvine, head of planning at Oldham Council, had been suspended due to accusations of gross misconduct, Roberts said “it is not appropriate for us to comment on the employment status of individuals.”
At a raucous planning committee on 1 July, Russell Homes was granted planned consent for 265 houses at Knowls Lane, a 39-acre greenfield site in Lees, while 32 houses were approved from First Choice Homes in Hodge Clough Road.
The Russell Homes scheme was particularly controversial, with local groups vehemently opposed the project. Following the planning committee, which was mired with confusion and voting miscounts, the process was described as a “kangaroo court” from viewers in the public gallery.
In a letter to the council yesterday, the borough’s Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Howard Sykes urged the council to investigate the approval of the projects, and if the allegations of gross misconduct applied to them, then he asked that “the decisions in relation to these applications are ‘revoked’ and returned to the planning committee with appropriate reports for decision.”
Irvine has been in his role since November 2015, having previously worked as a planning director at NLP, and at Cheshire East Council, where he was planning manager.