A CUMBRIAN authority has rejected claims it operates "behind closed doors" when handling planning applications from a major industrial firm.

Penrith campaigner Jeff Thomson has accused Eden Council of operating its planning procedures "with no accountability", following the local authority's most recent full council meeting.

Mr Thomson claimed that the council's planning committee chairman William Patterson "misled" the council by telling Eden Council at its September meeting that "all large applications, which include industrial and large estates, always come" before Eden's planning committee.

Mr Thomson disputed Mr Patterson's statement. “Omega’s eight current ‘live’ planning applications, including one dating back to March 2019, are all down as ‘delegated’ which means officers, not councillors, make the decision," he said.

“The last planning application to be approved for Omega was a ‘delegated’ one in June, and the biggest for a £20m thermal oxidiser was given ‘delegated’ approval in November 2019."

Mr Thomson accused the council and its planning committee chairman Mr Patterson of "ignoring" objections to further development at the Omega animal rendering plant.

“The council is operating its planning procedures behind closed doors with no accountability," he said.

"The system has to change if people are to have any confidence in Eden council’s planning processes.”

The campaign group Fresh AIR for Penrith, of which Mr Thomson is part, called for Mr Patterson to resign "before there can be any confidence in Eden's planning procedures"

A spokesman for Eden Council explained that any planning application submitted to the local authority will come before its planning committee if there are valid reasons for it to do so, as set out in the council's constitution under the requirements of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

Valid reasons include potential impact on parking, highway safety, traffic, nature conservation or noise, but do not include objections made by individuals on grounds that fall outside the scope of planning considerations, such as "devaluation of property" or "effect on private or civil rights".

"Having read and considered the content of the objection letters received to date we have determined that the comments and grounds for objections relate to the general development of the Omega Proteins site, and not to the specifics of each planning application as required within the constitution," the spokesman said.

"As such, it is not possible to accept the comments as valid planning grounds to each specific application."

"The council also notes that no specific request has been made to address any objection to the planning committee, as would also be required by the constitution.

"As such, we cannot currently accept requests for these applications to be put before the members of the planning committee for determination as they do not meet with the requirements of the council’s constitution."