A GOVERNMENT inquiry could be announced within weeks after a £250m housing and business development won a controversial approval from Mansfield District Council.
The ‘yes’ to the Lindhurst development south of Berry Hill has already been referred to Secretary of State Eric Pickles.
It comes after the council’s planning committee approved the development following a tense three-hour meeting last Tuesday, 18 months after the proposal was first submitted.
Around 150 people protesting against the plans gathered outside Mansfield Civic Centre ahead of the decision, supervised by police and security officers.
It was approved by the narrowest possible margin, with the committee chairman Sally Higgins using a casting vote to break a deadlock.
Its size and position outside of Mansfield’s urban boundary means it will now be referred to the Government’s National Planning Casework Unit.
Mr Pickles will decide whether the decision should be ‘called in’ and laid before a public inquiry.
Coun Steve Garner, who organised the demonstration, revealed he had already written to the Government to demand an inquiry before the decision.
“We want it called in and we want a full inquiry. We are not happy,” he said.
“I don’t feel the assessment of the traffic impact has been done properly, that’s how our case will be pushed.
“The decision was a sorry day for Mansfield because they allowed planning permission outside of the urban boundary.
“I’m worried we could get developers from all around doing similar things as a result.”
Developers, the Lindhurst Group, and some town business leaders say the scheme will bring in jobs, investment and regeneration.
Protesters had said it should be thrown out due to a loss of greenfield farm land, possible extra pressure on the MARR and threat to wildlife.
Lindhurst project co-ordinator Richard Bowden said work had now started on legal agreements covering cash for community improvements, a transport plan and other elements of the scheme.
“I am delighted we’ve got there,” he said. “Work will start straight away on planning for the next stage. There’s a big feeling of responsibility because we have talked about local jobs and we’ve now got work to do to make that happen.”
He admitted he felt the decision ‘probably’ will get called in for an inquiry, and expected to hear more within around eight weeks.
After the debate, councillors voted five in favour and five against, with three abstentions.
They had heard developers and potential investors speak in favour and councillors including Roger Sutcliffe, the town’s deputy mayor, speak against along with Berry Hill member Andrew Tristram.
The deadlock meant committee chairman Coun Higgins had to use her deciding vote, and ruled it should be passed, in line with an officer recommendation.
Speaking after the decision, Coun Higgins said: “Wherever we can we’ve got to bring jobs to the people of Mansfield. This could be a catalyst for economic improvement in the town.
“I understand the concerns of people who live in that area; it makes it a very difficult decision but I feel I can justify the decision and we’ll see what the future holds.”
During the debate, Coun Christine Smith said she had concerns on whether the plan could really be delivered.
“We’ve seen development for employment on greenfield sites time and time again and developers have said there’s no take up and they just ask for more housing,” she said.
But committee member Kate Allsop backed the plan, saying: “We’ve got a regeneration route built to bring jobs in to this area. There’s nothing more important to a town than having these things that draw people in.”
After the meeting, protesters said they were hoping any inquiry would overturn the decision.
Paul Frost, a Winchester Close resident and Mansfield Green Party member, said he was ‘shocked’ by the decision.
“There were some very serious points made against it and the councillors who abstained should have voted against,” he said.
Nottingham Road resident Ann Tagg added: “We desperately do need more work in the area but we are against it - it’s short-termism and it will create a two-tiered town.”