MP calls for inquiry but plans for 185 houses beside Maltby Colliery site are passed
Colliery owners Hargreaves have been granted outline permission to build on green space between Highfield Park and the old mining land.
The Advertiser reported last year that Gordon Banham, chief executive of the company, donated £2,000 in a personal capacity to Rother Valley Labour in 2017 – the year before the land was formally allocated as residential by Labour-controlled Rotherham Council.
When contacted by the Advertiser in December 2022, Mr Banham said the cash gift was because Sir Kevin Barron’s Rother Valley seat was at risk of falling to the Tories – which it did... to Mr Stafford in 2019.
RMBC’s planning board voted on the plans this morning (23), when there were five votes for and five against. The proposals passed through chairman Cllr Alan Atkin’s casting call.
But Mr Stafford said: “The issue of political donations should not be brushed aside. There must be a full investigation by the council into this.
“The decision to accept a donation at a similar time to when the authority was identifying development sites, inevitably opens up questions about the reason for the donation and the relationship between members of the Labour party and the developer.
“I am very concerned that beneficiaries of this donation – former and present councillors – have made decisions and voted on supporting this development already at various stages with no public record that I can find of any declaration of interest.
“The donation aside, I cannot and will not support any development on precious green space in our communities.”
Planning board member Cllr Simon Ball questioned whether Rother Valley Labour members should be voting on the matter.
Cllr Jenny Andrews, a member of that group, said: “I judge each case fairly. I do not take backhanders, I’m just making that clear.”
Stuart Evans, RMBC’s planning lawyer, said: “This is a planning forum governed by planning law.
“My take on it today is that it’s irrelevant. There’s no members here who have links to these allegations.
“If there’s genuine concern about it, reference needs to be made to the monitoring officer.”
Land provided a “reassuring buffer”
Concerns about road safety, congestion, pressure on schools and health services, and encroaching on greenbelt land were not enough to sink the proposals.
Rotherham Council received 39 objections to Hargreaves’ plans, with several councillors raising concerns at the planning board meeting this morning (23).
The site has several constraints, including wildlife sites at the north and south, while the vehicle access from Tickhill Road will overlap into the greenbelt and ancient woodland. RMBC deemed this acceptable given the lack of any other access options.
Half of the site will remain green space or landscaping, with 100 allotments of 20 metres by five provided near the top, which the council says will be fewer in number but higher in quality.
James Gibbs, planning adviser to Hargreaves, noted that the site currently suffers from anti-social behaviour, crime and fly-tipping.
But Cllr Adam Tinsley, Maltby East ward member on RMBC, said: “There are no plans to stop off-road vehicles. These residents are going to suffer from that anti-social behaviour.”
He said there were concerns about contaminants from the behind-schedule former pit land restoration, adding: “You can smell what’s being dumped on there across Maltby when they do it.”
Cllr Lynda Stables, Maltby Town Council, said the land provided a “reassuring buffer” between the housing and the pit tip.
Tearful allotment holder Jackie Weaver said: “I’m just gutted. It’s going to have a great impact. I’ve had horses on there for 46 years.”
Planning board member Cllr Jenny Andrews raised the sewage problems suffered after the new Crags school was built over the road.
She said the housing was being “shoe-horned into a lovely space that Maltby people enjoy” and the road was “dangerous”.
Fellow board member Cllr Simon Ball said: “My inbox is full of complaints about traffic, trying to get out of Maltby and back in. My concern is that it’s just not going to be workable.”
Highways officer Simon Gammons said the Queens crossroads would be upgraded in the new year, using cash from the Grange Lane housing development.
NHS South Yorkshire Integrated Care Board noted how 1,400 patients had been dispersed when Maltby’s Queen’s Medical Centre closed down in 2022, placing more pressure on the remaining three practices.
A spokesperson added: “The impact of the two developments [this and Grange Lane] combined with a shortage of primary care facilities in the area is likely to place further strain on capacity.”
The council says the matter will be addressed through Community Infrastructure Levy payments when the full planning permission is submitted at a later date.
A Section 106 agreement attached to the outline permission will require Hargreaves to provide cash for secondary and special school education, as well as £181,557 for improvements to community sports facilities.