A ROW over the debate on a contentious planning application for 55 homes in Christchurch has rumbled on almost a month after the scheme was refused.

Councillor Margaret Phipps questioned BCP Council planning committee chair David Kelsey over how members discussed and voted on the proposal for 51 apartments and four houses on land at the corner of Barrack Road and The Grove.

At this month's full council meeting, Cllr Phipps, who represents the Commons ward, home to the application site, raised issues with the debate that took place at planning committee in mid-December.

The application was refused by a vote of eight to six.

"What has gone wrong with a planning committee that six members including the chairman, disregarded appropriate national strategic local policy and guidance, contrary to our constitution, to vote for grant of an application which clearly failed on so many national and local policies and was recommended by officers for refusal," said Cllr Phipps.

The Christchurch Independents councillor said the application attracted 275 objections, including from Natural England and failed the sequential test for flood risk.

Bournemouth Echo: CGI of the rejected plans for the site in Christchurch. Picture: FortitudoCGI of the rejected plans for the site in Christchurch. Picture: Fortitudo

Cllr Kelsey said he was surprised Cllr Phipps did not like how the planning board runs with members debating applications.

"In my opinion, absolutely nothing has gone wrong with the planning committee," he said. "With regards to the case you refer to, planning committee upheld the officer's recommendation to refuse following a robust and probing debate of the key issues, so I am not entirely sure why you would find fault in that outcome.

"I acknowledge there were dissenting views from some of the planning committee members during the debate, including myself, however, as chairman my job is to ask questions and also to seek clarification from officers on points of clarity.

"Members have differing views and being allowed and encouraged to express them is part of normal process that happens in all planning committees across the country."

He said the purpose of the planning committee was to make judgements based on the information before them "impartially, fearlessly and openly".

"Without such an approach we may as well do away with the planning committee and solely rely on the officer's recommendations – not an approach I or our residents would be happy with," said Cllr Kelsey.

"I am sure everyone would agree there is a considerable merit in having planning committee, so the difficult planning issues can be discussed in public without political affiliation or local bias to ultimately reach a consensus decision on the planning merits of a proposal.

"I respectfully disagree that appropriate national strategic local policy and guidance were disregarded in this case.

"It was a matter of planning judgement ultimately and I am satisfied that the decision to refuse the application was reached entirely within the council's due process and the committee's discharge of its planning functions."

In a follow up question, Cllr Phipps said she had no issue with debate but added that the decision could have gone the other way.

Bournemouth Echo: Councillor Margaret PhippsCouncillor Margaret Phipps

"As far as I am concerned this is about public confidence," said Cllr Phipps.

"Do you think that those who voted as they did, to effectively grant this application, gave the public confidence in our planning system?"

Cllr Kelsey replied: "If you actually listened to the debate as you say you have, you would have noticed halfway through the debate somebody mentioned the possibility of a deferral and that deferral would have been to get further information.

"I for one voted against the move to grant because I preferred to have a deferral and I am sure that there were more than just myself in the room that voted that way in accordance with that.

"For you to sit there and say it was only beaten by eight votes to six is totally wrong because you not being in that room have absolutely no idea on why those six people voted the way they did."