ASHBOURNE'S planning committee has been accused of 'sidestepping democracy' and 'taking the easy way out' after allowing 190 homes to be built on fields close to the town centre.
Six speakers made passionate pleas to the Derbyshire Dales District Council's Southern Area Planning Committee on Tuesday night but during a lengthy debate the members concluded that the application, for 125 houses and 65 extra care units on land at Hillside Farm, could win its on-going appeal costing the tax payers in a potential claim for costs.
Many of the councillors sat round the table at Ashbourne Leisure Centre said they sympathised with the residents that would have to accommodate the influx of new neighbours but most concluded that the cost of losing an appeal over a previous similar application due to go through the appeal courts in February could and should be avoided by letting the new application through.
Councillor Angus Jenkins told the committee: "If this would cost nothing to turn down then we would all do it in a heartbeat, I'm sure, but it all comes down to some pretty significant wodges of cash and the tax payer needs to be aware of that."
Councillor Lewis Rose, who put forward a motion to agree with the officer's recommendation that the plan be approved, referred to the large crowd of people who had come to watch the decision being made, said: "It's all very well playing to the gallery and being sympathetic with the gallery but we need to be sympathetic to the tax payer who will have to foot the bill."
Councillor Andrew Lewer was one of the few members to disagree and emphasised his point by referring to his two-year-old son, Philip. He said: "I don't want my son to look at Ashbourne in years to come and ask me where all the fields went in his home town. I don't want to tell him I voted to have houses built on them.
"This is a 10, 20, or 50 year decision for the district council, it's not some short-term revenue decision like building a swimming pool."
However he was only one of four councillors voting against the application, which developers argue is a significant opportunity for development in Ashbourne and planning officers say will demonstrate Ashbourne has a sustainable plan for housing provision.
Out of the 14 councillors sat around the table, 10 voted to follow the officer Jon Bradbury's recommendation and to approve the application.
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