RESIDENTS have challenged the legality of a council decision to allow new housing on playing fields at a top York independent school.

A City of York Council planning committee granted planning permission earlier this year for homes to be built on unused fields at the Mount School, despite strong opposition from local residents.

A campaign group called Mount Vale Community subsequently called for the decision to be reviewed, claiming there were ‘significant errors’ in an officers’ report to councillors.

The group’s chair, Murray Rose, has claimed the conduct of the sub-committee was poor, including a registered speaker not being called to speak until a challenge was made and no effort being made by any councillor to ask questions of any of the registered objectors.

“Our basic argument is that school playing fields should be protected, that more executive houses are not the real issue facing York and that the site itself is unsuitable for development,” he said.

“Our arguments now also include the fact that the processes involved in getting the planning application to a committee have been flawed from the start and initial errors have been compounded by further errors.”

He also said in an email to Chief Executive Mary Weastell that he was a former York assistant director of children’s services, who had led successful applications for ‘Beacon Council’ status.

“I tell you this because I was proud to work for York and to help the council deliver the best for its citizens,” he said. “I only wish that some of your staff could say the same today and could be seen to be acting fairly and reasonably and giving due regard to the views of your citizens.”

He said the group had engaged a solicitor who wrote to the council in May to say the decision may have been unlawful and could be challenged at judicial review.

Mike Slater, council assistant director of planning, said officers had to ensure ‘comprehensive relevant information’ was presented to committee members so they could carry out a full and fair assessment on applications and consider both positive and negative elements before arriving at a decision.

“Council officers from both the planning and legal departments have spent a considerable amount of time considering and responding to concerns raised on behalf of the Mount Vale Community by the solicitor appointed in relation to these issues and also by Mr Rose.

“Whilst noting all of the points raised, the council is satisfied that the overall process relating to the processing, assessment and determination of this particular application was correct and that there has been no error or defect in the process.”