A PUBLIC inquiry has been called into rejected plans for a ‘care village’ in Catherine-de-Barnes ruled to be in breach of greenbelt policy.
The proposed development on Hampton Lane was slammed by Solihull residents and councillors over its imposing size and negative effect on the area’s rural character.
It was thrown out by the planning committee of locally elected councillors last October despite being recommended for approval by officers.
But an inspector from the government’s Planning Inspectorate will now hold a public inquiry after an appeal was lodged by applicant Richmond Villages.
Residents have been asked to attend an inquiry hearing at Sans Souci training centre, Tanworth Lane, Shirley to give their opinions on the controversial plans.
They involve the demolition of several buildings and the construction of 13 new building blocks – many three stories.
The main ‘Village Care Centre’ would have 50 care rooms, 49 care suites, a wellness centre, a restaurant and an office.
The luxury village would also include 84 extra care living units presented as either maisonettes, cottages or bungalows.
It was claimed at the planning committee meeting that the development would nearly double the population of Catherine-de-Barnes.
The Planning Inspectorate, an arms length government body, has the power to recommend following a public inquiry that the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government should overturn planning decisions made by elected councillors.
The inquiry is expected to last until August 16 and the proposals can be viewed by the public at Solihull Connect, off Library Square, Touchwood shopping centre.
The application had claimed the ‘very special circumstances’ required to satisfy overriding national and local green belt policies exist in this case.
But councillors slammed the ‘massive’ development for breaching policy, saying it was totally inappropriate.
Richmond Villages, owned by private healthcare provider Bupa, argued in its planning application that the ‘very special circumstances’ include the need for care facilities, the lack of alternative suitable sites and the provision of a range of accommodation and employment.
A public notice from Solihull Council states: “The Planning Inspectorate has now appointed an inspector to hold an inquiry into the appeal.
“Interested parties may attend or be represented at the inquiry and give their views orally.”
The ‘very special circumstances’ exemption which permits building on greenbelt appears in the government’s National Planning Policy Framework, which otherwise aims to prevent urban sprawl and the unnecessary loss of open greenbelt land.
Local resident Duncan McArdle at last October’s planning meeting said: “I lived one mile up the road for nine years and used to regularly come to the village because of its attractive nature and access to the countryside.
“It’s massive (the development). Residents are constantly fighting threats to the greenbelt of this kind.
“We know it is a precious resource that, once lost, is never recovered.”