A MASSIVE housing and business development which will change the face of part of Mansfield has been narrowly approved following a dramatic council meeting.
The Lindhurst plan for housing and businesses south of Berry Hill along the MARR road was passed by a district council planning hearing on Tuesday night.
Around 150 people protesting against the plans had gathered outside Mansfield Civic Centre ahead of the crucial decision.
Only around half were allowed inside the limited space of the chamber’s public gallery and an anteroom with live feed to hear the discussions on the scheme.
After three hours of debate in a tense atmosphere, planning committee councillors voted five in favour of approval, five against, with three abstentions.
This meant committee chairman Sally Higgins had to use her deciding vote to break the deadlock, and ruled it should be passed.
Protesters cried ‘shame’ from the public gallery, but Coun Higgins was quick to defend her decision.
Developers the Lindhurst Group and some town business leaders say the scheme will bring in jobs, investment and regeneration thanks to its bid to build 1,700 homes and business facilities supplying up to 4,000 jobs.
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.
Those opposed to the plans said they would immediately begin lobbying the Government to ‘call in’ the decision and have it evaluated by public enquiry.
Speaking after the decision coun Higgins said: “I’ve looked at the reports and at the back of my mind I know we are in difficult times.
“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 planning committee member 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.
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.
“Looking to the future of a town that’s growing I want to see quality jobs and quality housing.”
Racecourse member coun Steve Garner, who organised the protest ahead of the meeting, said after the approval his attention would now switch to appealing to Eric Pickles, secretary of state for communities and local Government.
He has already written to Mr Pickles to request a call-in.
Paul Frost, a Winchester Close resident and Mansfield Green Party member, said he was ‘shocked’ by the process and 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.”
-For more on this story see next Wednesday’s (20th July) edition of Chad.