Didcot leaders have accused South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) of being ‘petrified’ of rejecting planning applications for developments in Didcot.
The last 11 plans Didcot Town Council recommended for rejection SODC overruled and approved, town and SODC councillor Bill Service recorded.
This was the case three weeks ago when a pizza restaurant in a converted shipping container was granted planning permission to be installed by the amphitheatre-style steps in the Orchard Centre, and in July when the £50m expansion of the Orchard Centre was approved.
Cllr Service told the Guardian: “I don’t think SODC feel they can go against the needs of the developers as they are scared about rejecting the plans.”
Town councillor Margaret Davies, who is also on SODC’s planning committee, said: “When it comes to SODC sitting down and looking at planning applications for Didcot, there seems to be an attitude of ‘anything goes’.
“They are petrified about rejecting these proposals as they know their developers will appeal and if they win the appeal then SODC will have to cover the costs of that, which can be quite a hefty sum.
“It’s my belief that this underpins their fear and that as a result we now have no localism in politics anymore.”
She added she could never understand why SODC accepted plans for a ‘shipping container’ pizza restaurant as they ‘do not fit well with the town’s aesthetic’.
However SODC planning committee member Toby Newman said: “I don’t believe there is a fear in the committee at all.
“We take each application on their own merit; I don’t believe there is any agenda on our part to approve applications based on any fears about developers.
“The application for the pizza restaurant was a worthy application, in my view, as there are already shipping containers at the site.”
Didcot company Self Store Depot has shipping containers for storage in Rich’s Sidings near the Orchard Centre.
But Cllr Service said the bigger concern is for large-scale plans for future housing developments. He said: “It’s worrying, as with all these big housing applications coming up, residents are voicing their grievances that the town council and the town itself is not being heard.”
Recent applications have seen 1,800 homes proposed opposite the Ladygrove estate in north Didcot, 400 homes earmarked on the site of Didcot A Power Station, 300 homes off Station Road as part of the Didcot Gateway project and a plan for a 170-housing estate between Didcot and East Hagbourne.
The town council had no strong views on the homes for Didcot Gateway but have recommended the plans for homes on the power station, the plans for the 1,800 homes in North Didcot and the plans for East Hagbourne for refusal.