CONTROVERSIAL plans to merge Malvern Hills District Council’s two planning committees have been scrapped after seven Conservative councillors voted against their own party leader’s plans.
District council leader Coun David Chambers had called for the northern and southern area planning groups to be combined in a bid to ensure ‘good governance’ and protect the council’s reputation.
However, Tory rebels criticised his plans with one councillor calling for Malvern residents to have a say on any proposed changes.
Malvern is the only district council in Worcestershire with two planning committees and Coun Chambers challenged those who claimed the current system ‘represented the optimum structure for decisions’.
Speaking at the full council meeting, Coun Chambers pleaded with his fellow councillors to back his proposals and warned failing to do so would see the rejection ‘judged for years to come’.
However, his plea fell on deaf ears as 22 councillors, voted in favour of keeping the current system while 14 backed the change.
“I am extremely disappointed members did not approve a single planning committee,” said Coun Chambers.
“We should make our committees efficient like we have to do for the rest of the service.
“When I raised this with the Conservative group in November they agreed with the proposal and thought it was a sensible, efficient suggestion.
“Unfortunately, six Conservative councillors from the north of the district worked together to vote against the decision.”
With the proposal labelled as one of the most important decisions the authority would make this year, Coun Chambers told the Observer there would be no plans to reconsider it in the future.
“I fear we have missed an opportunity for a more a professional, highly trained, integrated, single planning committee, and in doing so we may have let our residents, businesses, developers, agents and partners down,” he said.
Conservative councillors Paul Cumming, Pam Cumming, Chris Dell, Phil Grove, Tony Penn, Barbara Williams from the north of the district were joined by fellow Tory Mike Morgan to vote against the plans.
Speaking at the meeting, Coun Penn said: “I made my feelings known two weeks ago at a group meeting and they have not changed. I believe a debate on this matter is very premature.”
Coun Cumming admitted for the first time in 20 years he had no choice but to vote against his party ‘in the interest of his residents’.
He stressed a public consultation should be held before any changes are approved.
*What do you think? Should the district council have one planning committee? Email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to the address on page eight of this week’s Observer.