PLANS to build 1,200 homes on former industrial land in Northwich were sensationally turned down for the second time last night.
Members of Vale Royal Borough Council's planning committee rejected the proposals put forward by the Winnington Urban Village Consortium to revamp disused land in Winnington.
They voted 7-6 against the plans, spearheaded by soda ash firm Brunner Mond.
That was despite a report by the council's head of planning, Richard Ellison, recommending the application be approved.
And he warned councillors that, when the consortium appeals against the planning committee's first decision to reject the urban village in 2002, it is likely to win as the reasons put forward last night for refusal were groundless.
The proposals were the culmination of a number of years' work by the consortium, comprising Brunner Mond, which is the major landowner, and a group of prominent house build-ers. The consortium believed it had resolved the problems raised in 2002 after working with both council planners and Northwich Vision advisors ahead of submitting the new application.
Mark Chitty, director of corporate affairs at Brunner Mond, slammed the council as 'failing' in its duty.
He said: 'It is just a staggering decision in the light of the professional advice that the planning committee had been given.
'All the reasons that have been raised by the councillors have been resolved by the planners. It is absolutely unbelievable that they could come to this conclusion.
'By forcing the issue to go to appeal in the spring, the members of the planning committee will have cost the ratepayers a lot of money that could be better spent in other areas.
'This decision is all the more surprising coming from a council which only a few weeks ago announced that its plans for the Northwich Vision were dependant on private sector funding such as is being offered here. On its first opportunity to put its strategy into action the council have failed its own task.
'We will be appealing and are very much looking forward to the public inquiry in the spring when we expect our argument to be sustained - which it will be.'
Mr Chitty said the urban village would be an 'important step forward both for Northwich and Brunner Mond' which would have transformed what is an important site at a major gateway to the town.
The village would have incorporated businesses, offices, a community centre, a pub and a primary school, but there had been objections from people living nearby who feared it would cause major traffic problems in the area.
The developers proposed road improvements and sustainable transport measures to provide a choice of transport and to minimise the use of cars by residents, thereby reducing the number of trips made each day. But they did concede there would be a 4% increase in traffic generation at peak times.
A report to council planners stated: 'Clearly this is a most significant development and perhaps the largest single development since Kingsmead.
'The development complies with planning briefs and it is also considered that the applicant has demonstrated that the proposal would sit alongside the exciting plans and programme for regeneration in Northwich.'
What next for urban village? See next week's Northwich Chronicle.