CIVIL servants used special powers to defer a decision made by elected councillors to reject a plan to build 330 homes on the once iconic Tall Trees hotel near Yarm.

Instead, it is likely the matter will have to be discussed once again by Stockton Borough Council’s planning committee.

Officers had recommended approving local businessman Javed Majid’s latest plan, to build 330 family and executive homes along with open public spaces, football and cricket pitches, play areas and allotments at the Tall Trees site.

However approval would mean that more than 1,000 houses are to be built on either side of Green Lane. Altogether nearly 3,000 new homes have either been approved or are planned for the whole South Stockton, which has led to protests.

The council’s planning officers cite changes the Government has made to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to make it easier for developers to win approval for new housing developments. Local authorities across the country have been losing appeals under the new guidelines which can cost the council up to £30,000 a time.

The council has also failed to meet five year housing supply targets, which also makes it harder to reject new housing schemes.

However at a planning committee meeting at Stockton’s Tabernacle this week, councillors said the Government should be challenged on the issue.

Coun Steve Walmsley, a Thornaby Independent, said: “The NPPF is meant to be a guide, not an excuse. Why have a planning committee under this? We should just let the officers decide. We’ve got to make a stand somewhere.

"We’re against the Government on the bedroom tax and allowing so much child poverty and we say so, and we should make a stand here too. If you have haven’t got a backbone you shouldn’t stand for office.”

In the end the committee voted against the motion by seven votes to three on the grounds that it was outside the council’s development area and there was no sustainable transport for the area.

However Julie Butcher, principle solicitor at the council, said more details were needed and investigations made before the decision could be recorded. If good legal reasons are developed the decision may be accepted, if not it will appear before the planning committee again at a future date.

After the meeting Mr Majid said he would “absolutely” appeal against a rejection.