A FULL inquiry into Colchester Council’s planning system is needed in the wake of the Tollgate Village decision, according to an opposition councillor.

Plans for the £70million retail and leisure park in Stanway were twice thrown out by the council’s planning committee but the decision was overturned by Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid.

Colchester Council’s Conservative group leader Dennis Willetts urged cabinet members to look at how planning works in the borough after the decision and the successful appeal over nearby restaurant development Stane Park last year.

He said: “Many of us have great concerns about the state of planning after the Tollgate Village errors and the decisions which were made.

“The council was castigated in the report.

“We have a good record of winning appeals but the numbers are exaggerated by cases relating to garages, porches and minor developments which help us meet out targets.

“What we have seen on Tollgate Village and Stane Park is something is seriously wrong.

“There has to be linkages between committees we have in the council and somehow they need to work better.

“I believe an independent inquiry is the minimum we could do to ascertain what has happened and how improvements can be made on our appeals record on these major applications.

“We need to know why it has gone wrong so many times.”

Council bosses defended their record on major applications citing their victories after applicants had appeal their rejection of 50 homes on the Gas Sports Ground off Bromley Road in 2014 and a bid for the Stour Valley Visitor Centre in Horkesley Park in the same year.

Leader Paul Smith (Lib Dem) said he believed the planning inspector had shared the council’s fears over the development but gave different weight to them.

He said: “To me it looked like an on-balance decision demonstrated by no costs being awarded against the council.”

Deputy leader Tim Young (Lab) said the impact of the appeal had been exaggerated.

He said: “I think the cabinet feel we will look at the Tollgate Village planning application and see what lessons have to be learned.

“I do not think we need the sort of inquiry which is being asked for – I think it is politically motivated.

“We need to kick the hyperbole this decision has caused out.

“We will look at the repercussions and take on what it means but anything further than that is unnecessary.”