PNE decision dominates council meeting

John Kelly hands over the PNE fans' petition to council leader Coun Peter Rankin
John Kelly hands over the PNE fans' petition to council leader Coun Peter Rankin
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The controversial decision to reject Preston North End’s training ground masterplan dominated the debate at a feisty meeting of the full city council.

Prior to the start, a fans’ petition with more than 3,000 signatures in support of an amended plan was submitted to council leader Coun Peter Rankin.

Inside the chamber, Coun Rankin was placed under scrutiny for his outspoken reaction to the committee’s decision.

Despite officer recommendations, the masterplan was rejected earlier this month because of fears it would create urban sprawl and because it breached local planning guidelines.

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Coun Neil Darby, who represents Ingol, the location for PNE’s proposals for housing, public open space and training ground, asked whether the council still supported its own local plan to protect the city from “unscrupulous developers”.

Coun Rankin responded that the local plan was a guideline only. He added: “Sometimes policies shouldn’t be embedded in concrete and common sense should be used.”

Opposition members said the leader’s public criticism of the committee’s decision amounted to him lobbying members given that the planning application has now been re-submitted and will be considered in August.

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Coun Rankin said he was within his rights as leader to comment after the decision had been made, adding he believed it was “against the interests of the city” as the “benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.”

Conservative leader Coun Neil Cartwright and colleagues highlighted that the treatment of committee members in the aftermath of the decision on social media had been “unacceptable”.

And Lib Dem Coun Jason Jeffrey called for the amended plans to be considered by central government rather than return to the planning committee.