A masterplan outlining where up to 1,500 homes and a primary school are to be built in Harborough was approved by the district council last night.
In a recorded vote, members voted 23 to one in favour of the approving the plan for land north west of Harborough. There were nine abstentions.
The document is a planning framework for the area in the context of which the council will consider three planning applications for homes submitted by different developers.
Community infrastructure to be built as part of the development is to include a link road, a primary school, a multi-purpose community building, park and play areas and sports pitches. There will be two local centres with shops.
Developers will also pay a contribution towards healthcare and secondary education provision in Harborough, the meeting heard.
The masterplan was put together following the agreement of the Core Strategy planning document in 2011, which earmarked at least 1,000 new homes at the site.
The decision to approve it followed a two-hour discussion at the Innovation Centre on Monday night.
Residents and community groups were given a chance at Monday’s meeting to voice their concerns.
Representatives from both Lubenham and Great Bowden parish councils expressed fears over the extra traffic they fear will bring misery to their villages and called for a bypass.
Carl Bedford of the Old Union Canal Society made further pleas for a planned road bridge off the B6047 to be moved north of the group’s moorings. He said the group would consider applying for a judicial review if the masterplan was passed.
And residents from Spinney Close voiced concerns over the separation of the development from their homes and about flooding.
But in a stinging rebuke the council’s portfolio holder for planning Cllr Phil King said: “At the end of the day it might not be what you want to hear but it’s the best of a bad job.
“A process was gone through. The problems have not been glossed over and there’s been debate at every stage. If you want a bypass, who’s going to pay for it? The taxpayer?
“And Mr Bedford, you refer to a judicial review, that sounded like a threat to me and this council will not be intimidated.
“We’ve listened to community concerns and made changes. We’ve had discussions with the developers to try to get a better and more welcoming environment for people.”
Lib Dem Cllr Phil Knowles said the council had ignored a public consultation which came out in favour of building just 1,000 homes.
“I don’t think we’ve got a document that the council can be proud of here - there are too many ifs and buts,” he said.
“People said they wanted 1,000 homes, then we came back with 1,500 to 1,800 homes, now the executive has arrived at 1,500 homes.
“We’re ignoring people, that’s the bottom line.
“If you’re going to consult people at least listen to them, don’t just pay lip service.”
His fellow Lib Dem member Cllr Pete Callis, who was the one vote against the proposal, said: “My major issue with this plan is over the highways. When you look at this development I suspect most of the people living there will come from elsewhere, meaning they will have to travel to work and we’ll end up with a lot of traffic. I think the whole process has been flawed. Consultations were carried out and ignored.”
Conservative Cllr Mark Graves, who sits on the planning committee, said: “This masterplan is not the final stage of the planning process. There are many more stages and legal processes that need to be gone through before any homes are built.”
Council leader Blake Pain apologised for his colleague Cllr King’s aggressive’ tone, saying it was borne out of the assertiveness he had to show to bring the masterplan to its final stages.
He said the plan struck the right balance between housing numbers and levels of infrastructure and put the council in a stronger position to shape planning applications for the site.
Speaking after meeting, Cllr King said: “We wanted to make sure that this site is developed in the best way possible with the right services. We have a duty to ensure that future development is sustainable and provides the proper level of infrastructure and green spaces, so that it is a desirable place to live, work and enjoy leisure time for future residents.
“The approved masterplan will help achieve this. It is appreciated that there may be still some objections to development here come what may and despite all that we have done. However, throughout this process, and especially over the last few months, whilst I have been the portfolio holder, we have actively engaged with local people and organisations.
“We are now in stronger position to shape any planning applications for this site. I would like to thank the public and community groups for all their input throughout the process.”