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Community stadium project may face EU probe
Independent councillor Mark Warters has formally complained to the European Commission that the authority’s failure to adopt a Local Development Framework (LDF) breaches a 2001 directive.
He said permission had been granted for the 540-home Derwenthorpe scheme and stadium and superstores at Monks Cross without strategic environmental assessments being completed, and said these were mandatory, not optional.
He said he had decided to act after the council had repeatedly refused to earmark any of the £5.265 million raised from the sale of the Derwenthorpe land to the local community.
He said: “If people say I am putting a spanner in the works, they are wrong - I am putting the entire tool box in the works.”
He claimed the council could not choose to delay or dilute the 2001 directive, which demanded environmental protection and sustainable development by 2004.
The complaint may fresh cast doubt over the controversial proposals for a stadium and superstores at Monks Cross, just days after the Government allowed planning permission granted by the council to stand, although the council said it disputed Coun Warters’ claims and did not expect any further delays.
Coun Warters said to the Commission: “In the event that the requirements of the directive have not been met, can you confirm that the UK Government and City of York Council must immediately revoke the planning permissions granted for Derwenthorpe and Monks Cross 11, and that any development must cease?”
The Osbaldwick councillor revealed he had taken advice before sending the letter from an unnamed expert in European law who made a complaint several years ago about the sale of land for the Derwenthorpe scheme by the council to the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust.
That complaint resulted in an EC investigation and a two-year delay in Derwenthorpe before the Commission eventually concluded the deal had not complied with EU public procurement law, but also decided not to refer the matter to the European Courts.
Council leader James Alexander said: “This is more sour grapes from Coun Warters who, as ever, is unprepared to accept decisions that have been made democratically. He can continue to fight his case and try to delay things, but I’m convinced he will have to accept these decisions sooner or later.”
Andy Docherty, the council’s head of legal services, said: “The council has a statutory duty to determine any planning applications made; that duty has not been overridden by the directive. It is incorrect to suggest otherwise.
“The directive requires assessments to be carried out on a wide range of public plans when they are being produced. The Government produced regulations which implemented the directive. The Government did not introduce legislation in respect of LDFs so as to comply with the directive, although when an LDF is being prepared it is subject to the rules in the directive. There is no reason to suggest this will delay either the start or the completion of any major development schemes in the city which have been approved”
Coun Warters said: “If the council has fully complied with European law, they have nothing to worry about. I am simply asking the Commission to investigate whether they have done so.”
He said the complaint concerned the 2001 Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive.
He said to fulfil its obligations under the directive, the UK Government created legislation requiring local authorities to produce LDFs, but York’s was not completed and now even the draft version was being withdrawn following the Monks Cross decision.