ACCUSATIONS of political gamesmanship on the planning committee have led a councillor to ask the Secretary of State to call-in a planning application.

The latest version of Eden Council’s Voreda House £5 million project was approved by its planning panel on December 16, but due to a series of issues in its development, the Government has been asked to intervene.

Eden’s leadership hope to transform Voreda House, based at Portland Place, Penrith into a UK first carbon-free council office. But citing a number of issues in the development’s protracted lifespan, town councillor Jonathan Davies believes it should be halted.

Cllr Davies said: “I have submitted a call-in request to the Secretary of State on the Voreda House planning application submitted by Eden District Council.”

Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Michael Gove has the power to call-in a planning application so that the decision to approve or reject it lies with him, instead of the local authority.

The town councillor who represents Putting Cumbria First accused Eden council’s leadership of “playing musical chairs” with the planning committee to get their own application pushed through.

He said: “The last time it was approved, a member of the Independent Alliance Group, was ‘pushed’ onto the committee that day to make a decision on the executive’s own application.”

Eden Council is ruled by a coalition of Liberal Democrats, Labour councillors, Green Party Members and the Independent Alliance Group.

Cllr Davies spoke at one of the meetings of the planning panel in which Voreda House was discussed. He objected to the development siting safety concerns about cladding that was set to be attached to the building.
“To be told by both the architect that was there and by the council that the cladding was safe to put on the building. It was found out a couple of weeks later that if they went ahead with it the building would be a pile of rubble.

Cllr Davies also feels that the project would be a waste of money as Eden District Council will cease to exist when local government reform is complete.

Leader of Eden District Council, Cllr Virginia Taylor, said: “Accusations that the administration manipulated the membership of the planning committee are wholly without foundation and I am offended at their implications of wrongdoing.

“I call on Jonathan Davies to withdraw them. Planning committees are politically balanced and council votes on and agrees which members should sit on the committee.

"Membership is the same throughout the political year unless the political balance of the council changes, as happened following the result of the recent by-election in Penrith West. Council agreed the revised make up of committees in November.

“Planning is tightly regulated and councillors are trained in their statutory responsibilities – never making a decision on anything other than material planning grounds.”