Graffham villagers brand planning investigation a ‘complete whitewash’

Area in front of the Homes of Rest in Graffham
Area in front of the Homes of Rest in Graffham

GRAFFHAM villagers have branded an investigation into a controversial planning decision for new homes as a ‘complete whitewash’.

And now they are pressing the South Downs National Park Authority to call in the plan for a final decision.

One of the spokesmen for the objectors, John Uphill said: “Chief executive Diane Shepherd has chosen her own questions to answer, rather than all the ones we posed in our letters of objection.

“The investigation has been a complete whitewash.

“We are urging the national park to call this plan in because it has become significant in their own terminology.

“It’s become a major development and there is a huge level of interest in the site.”

He said he and others had already told the chief executive they were not satisfied and planned to step up their complaint.

More than 90 letters of objection were dispatched to Chichester District Council (CDC) opposing the plan from Reside Developments to demolish four cottages around the Homes of Rest in Graffham and replace them with five new homes.

And objectors crowded into the debating chamber for the planning debate at CDC where planning officers recommended the plan should be approved.

Rather than give officers delegated powers to decide the application, it was ‘red carded’ by Graffham’s district councillor John Elliott because he believed it should be decided by members.

At the meeting, councillors voted 12-3 to refuse the application.

“But the chairman intervened and onlookers said the meeting then ‘descended into chaos’ with members confused as to what they were voting for and the public left feeling the process was ‘undemocratic’.

Mr Uphill said: “They turned the rejection round and instead gave it back to the planners to decide.

“As far as observers could see, they managed to manipulate the process in order to turn a clear rejection into passing it back to officers under delegated powers, despite the fact it was red-carded specifically for a decision by members.

“This is a miscarriage of justice.

“We want to escalate our complaint and we want to prevent the development starting so that it becomes a fait accompli after a questionable decision.”

In a letter to objectors outlining the results of her investigation, Mrs Shepherd said the head of planning would answer questions over the planning merits of the application.

She said she had studied the council’s standing orders and found no evidence these were breached.

The proposal for was put forward and seconded, the committee voted and no member of the committee raised a point of order on the proceedings.

After studying the minutes transcript, chairman’s statement and Cllr Elliott’s statement, she said she found no evidence to suggest members were confused on what they were voting for.”