Morrisons plan probe call

How the proposed Morrisons store would look from the front - as seen from Nottingham Road, Ripley.
How the proposed Morrisons store would look from the front - as seen from Nottingham Road, Ripley.

Ripley Town Council has pledged to probe the planning process behind a controversial scheme to build a Morrison’s superstore and new housing on the edge of town.

At a meeting on Tuesday Labour councillors voted for their leader Steve Freeborn and the town council clerk to review all Amber Valley Borough Council reports since the Gateway project for land off Nottingham Road was first mooted in 2010.

If they find any evidence of maladministration, the council warned it would make an official complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.

Issues it has been concerned about include whether the correct procedure was followed at a borough meeting when it was decided to oppose a plan by the town council to have part of the Gateway site declared a village green, which would seriously impact on the development bid.

A petition with 1,372 names, protesting against the development gathered by shops in Ripley, will also be presented to the borough council.

Amber Valley Borough Council (AVBC) has yet to 
determine the application, which also includes new leisure facilities.

Cllr Freeborn said: “Maladministration is potentially a very serious charge. If the ombudsman finds in favour of the complainant they have the power to compel a council to overturn a planning decision.”

He said any evidence gathered would be given to mayor Cllr John Nelson, saying: “I believe he is our best chance of getting some justice from the Conservative administration of AVBC.”

If any evidence it may find was not then dealt with it would go to the ombudsman, he said.

Cllr Freeborn said Freedom of Information requests he made Amber Valley were rejected until the Information Commissioner told the council to release documents.

Cllr Mick Wilson said at the meeting at Ripley Town Hall: “If they were building something for the MOD I would expect there to be secrecy. But this is about a store that sells food.”

He said Amber Valley had dealt with a Tesco application in Belper and an Asda store application in Langley Mill very differently to the Gateway scheme. He added: “It wasn’t about secrecy. We had debates. The public were allowed to see the 
evidence and the arguments.

“I believe that there has been something not right about this process.

“We must ask these questions.”

Conservative town councillor and former borough council and mayor, Cllr Ron Ashton said he was backing the Gateway scheme. He said: “I don’t like this negativity. You have got to move out of the 1960s and come into the 20th century. The decline of Ripley has been going on for 30 years. Market towns aren’t what they were. Peoples’ 
shopping habits have changed. Ripley needs some serious development.”

The borough council were contacted for a response by the News but declined.