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Call for housing plans at former Leek textile site to be suspended

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: July 02, 2014

By Leslie Jackson

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CALLS have been made for the redevelopment of a former textile mill to be suspended until a full inquiry has taken place.

Campaigners fighting the scheme at the Slimma factory site in Barngate Street, Leek, said it had come to light that the legal officer who advises Staffordshire Moorlands District Council's planning applications committee and the planning consultant working for the developer were from the same law firm.

The development currently has planning permission for 20 houses, with proposals for a two-storey apartment block currently under consultation.

Roger Adams, who lives in Langford Street, said: "We have taken legal advice over the issue and have now written to Staffordshire Moorlands MP Karen Bradley to pass on the information to Sir Michael Pitt, chief executive of the Planning Inspectorate, or his successor, to investigate the matter.

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"We feel this issue has the potential to lead to a conflict of interest as the council adviser, Rob Pattinson, is a partner at Knights of Newcastle, and the planning consultant for the developer, Ben Weatherley, also works there.

"The community wants a public inquiry as we feel the position should have been made clear at the planning meeting that they were both from the same firm.

"The community are not calling into question the integrity of anyone – we just want to know that the right process was followed.

"We have minutes from the council meeting where Mr Pattinson said that he knew Mr Weatherley, but did not say they were colleagues from the same company.

"We have also sought answers to our questions under the Freedom of Information Act, which we have been advised to do."

Staffordshire Moorlands MP Karen Bradley confirmed this week she had received the letter from campaigners.

She said: "I am aware of the allegations and I will take whatever steps are appropriate to represent my constituents."

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However, the district council said in a statement to the Post & Times that it was satisfied that all standards had been complied with.

A spokesman said: "All solicitors are bound to provide advice in accordance with their professional code. It is their responsibility to abide by that code.

"The council has been assured and is satisfied in this case that all standards have been complied with." The council said it was making no more comment on the issue and refused to confirm whether Mr Pattinson was still in the position of legal adviser.

District councillor Linda Malyon said she had put forward written questions for today's, Wednesday, meeting of the council's services delivery overview and scrutiny panel.

She said: "My concern is that the district council has followed the right process as both Mr Pattinson and Mr Weatherley are from Knights.

"We as councillors have to declare all our interests, so I have tabled the question to see that everyone has complied with the right procedure."

Last August the district council refused permission for 20 affordable houses and a three-storey apartment block at the Slimma site in Barngate Street. However, the developer appealed and in April this year a planning inspector issued a 'split' decision by allowing the 20 houses, but refusing the three-storey block. Last week the Post & Times reported that consultation had begun by Knights over new plans to build a two-storey block instead.

No-one from Knights was available for comment as the Post & Times went to press.

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