Moray councillors are being warned that plans to change their own rules to allow every councillor a say in a controversial planning application could spark legal action.
The local authority is due to decide the future of the £8.5million western link road – which has been dogged in controversy for several years.
Intended to link the A96 to the Edgar Road retail park, the route involves the compulsory purchase of several homes and gardens. That has been the main focus of protests over the proposals which have so far only narrowly cleared several votes in the council chambers.
Under existing rules any planning application would be heard by the planning committee – however, this week councillors will discuss if the application should be heard at a meeting of the full council.
Now the chairman of the planning committee, Councillor Douglas Ross, is warning that taking such a decision could lead to a legal challenge. He said: “I have been contacted by countless people in Moray who have questioned if there are other motives from councillors looking to move a planning application away from the planning committee.
”The bottom line is the planning committee has the members who determine planning applications – and there is nothing in this application which will allow it to be treated differently.
”I think the council could be open to legal challenge for changing the process for this one application. I also think it seriously harms the reputation of the council to treat a controversial application differently from others.”
Councillors will be asked to consider the change in a motion put forward by independent councillor John Cowe and Labour councillor Barry Jarvis, who insist that in this instance all 26 councillors should have a say.
Councillor Jarvis, who has previously supported the development, said: “It is an important issue which will have a major impact on Moray’s future. Therefore, I believe it surely makes sense for it to be voted on by everyone – not just the planning committee members.”