Parish councillors say residents and transport experts have been ignored after a new housing development was approved in Streethay.
Lichfield District Council’s planning committee gave the green light to the 352-home project on land off Burton Road despite local opposition.
But members of Fradley and Streethay Parish Council say the views of many were ignored – and questioned why a former planning official was allowed to speak on behalf of the developers at the meeting where the scheme was approved.
In a statement to LichfieldLive, councillors Harry Warburton, Fiona Lever and Alan Cope said: “We were very disappointed with the planning committee’s decision.
“Fradley and Streethay Parish Council has submitted detailed objections at every stage to this development and every one of them seems to have been ignored along with the comments from swathes of local people.
“Earlier in the process, residents clubbed together to pay for a transport consultant to help them. This firm found copious issues with the site and suggested alternative locations for the dwellings not considered in the Local Plan.
“But the formal document prepared by the consultant was, it appears, ignored by Lichfield District Council. This document and others have independently found this site not to be viable but still it persists.
“If we overlook the fact that the Lichfield District Council employee who played a part in allocating this site is now working for the developer that owns the site, we’re left with what looks like an incompetent decision to approve the development.”
But Richard King, strategic director of democratic, development and legal services at Lichfield District Council, said it was not unusual for former staff to return in other roles.
“It is a credit to the council that our employees secure private sector roles,” he said. “It is not a conflict of interests for someone from the planning department to move into a private organisation, which comes into contact with the council in a planning context.
“All planning decisions are based on sound, impartial planning arguments and evidence. In this instance the decision was made by the planning committee in a public, open forum.”
Traffic issues along the Burton Road – which will link the site to the road network – have been raised by opponents throughout the planning process.
A report from the WSP transport consultancy on behalf of Network Rail also had concerns, saying that the capacity of nearby road junctions had been over-estimated.
The study added that the development would cause “significant increases in queuing” with tailbacks of nearly 5km at rush hour a real possibility.
The parish councillors added: “We are also concerned that the data being used by Staffordshire Highways is incorrect as their representatives stated at a parish council meeting that there are never any more than two cars in a queue at Trent Valley island at any one time.
“Clearly this is nonsense, meaning the impact the Streethay housing development will have on Lichfield has very likely to have been underestimated.
“There are also the facts that the dwellings have insufficient garages, so cars will be parked on the road making access difficult for buses and emergency vehicles, and that HS2 will remove one of the access routes to the site by the A38.”
As well as organising their own transport report, local residents have also held a consultation event in a local pub.
But they say the views of locals continued to be ignored by decision makers.
“The Parish Council was not pleased when a request to Lichfield District Council’s planning department to hold a public exhibition for the development was refused,” the councillors added. “We felt that a development of this scale should be shown locally, especially as many Streethay residents were reporting problems with viewing the plans online.
“But the planning department stated that one was not required. So we held our own consultation in the local pub and it was very well attended.
“The Parish Council also submitted lengthy comments on the development requesting a meeting with the case officer to discuss them, but this request was also refused and we were told that it was not a requirement of the planning process.”
But Mr King said it was not the council’s duty to hold an event outlining the plans – but admitted their may have been issues viewing the plans online.
“Public exhibitions to display plans are the responsibility of the developer,” he said.
“The plans were available on our website. However, as they were very large, due to the size and nature of the development, we understand some people may have found them difficult to navigate online.”