Weaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury has accused ministers of ignoring community concerns amid controversial plans to build a 67-cabin holiday park in Delamere Forest.
In January the scheme was allowed on appeal after a planning inspector overturned a decision to unanimously reject it by Cheshire West and Chester Council planning committee.
After being contacted by several constituents, Mr Amesbury wrote to then communities secretary Sajid Javid in April expressing concern the decision had been taken out of the hands of councillors, as well as raising his fears over loss of green belt land – something he strongly opposes in all but exceptional circumstances.
In a response received from Jake Berry MP, minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, the government rejected the MP’s concerns, saying the decision was carried out solely by a planning inspector who took all such issues into account.
The Secretary of State will sometimes get involved with very large or contentious schemes.
Mr Amesbury said: “This raises serious worries that the views of councillors who have been democratically-elected by communities to put the concerns of those communities ahead of business interests can just be brushed aside so easily.
“This is precious ancient woodland and should be kept intact for future generations. The further worry is where does it end and what does it mean for our green belt in years to come?”
Campaign group Communities Against Delamere’s Destruction (CADD) have long opposed the £15m scheme by The Forestry Commission and its business partner Forest Holidays.
And in April 2017 Cheshire West and Chester Council’s planning committee unanimously rejected their master plan on grounds the green belt plan represented inappropriate development.
This was the second time the scheme had been refused on similar grounds.
But the Forestry Commission argued the holiday park would make the forest ‘fit for purpose’ by funding a new visitor centre, new trails and improved accessibility for people in cars and travelling by public transport, with claims it would bring an extra £2.4m a year to the economy.
Planning inspector Paul Singleton agreed: “I find that the early delivery of the enhanced visitor hub would be a social benefit of substantial weight. The provision of the Whitefield trails and the improvements to the safety of all non-car users accessing the visitor facilities would also be social benefits to which I attach significant weight.
“Visitors to the holiday cabins would be able to enjoy an enhanced experience of the forest park but this would be a benefit of only modest weight. The economic benefits weigh strongly in favour of the proposal and I attach considerable weight to these.”
He concluded: “I find that the harm resulting from the proposal would clearly be outweighed by the benefits when taken as a whole. The very special circumstances needed to justify a grant of planning permission for the holiday cabins have, therefore, been demonstrated.“