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Brighton 'blocked application to meet Labour planning targets'

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Council officers in Brighton demanded Conran and Partners withdraw a planning application so they could meet New Labour planning targets, it has emerged.

The move - relating to 31 social housing units approved by councillors against planning officers' recommendations on 18 May - flouts national government guidelines and exposes a practice that rates bureaucracy over design quality.

Project director Paul Zara of Conran and Partners said: 'The planning officers considering the scheme said that it was an overdevelopment from the beginning. In fact, they even tried to get us to withdraw the application so that they could meet their deadlines.' Zara claimed officers at Brighton & Hove City Council told him that the scheme, in Bevendean on the north-east outskirts of Brighton, was out of context with its surroundings and was unlikely to be granted planning permission.

They then asked Zara to withdraw the proposals entirely because they were keen to hit government targets.

Maggie Brian, the council's development control manager, said: 'In general terms, if we think a submission could be made acceptable by further negotiations then we might think it was appropriate to consider the second, more straightforward application over the first.

'This would be in order to meet government targets. In that respect I don't think Brighton & Hove is any different from any other council.' But an ODPM spokesperson outlined the department's guidelines for planning targets, insisting that Brighton's actions broke its rules.

'What we do encourage developers to do is to discuss applications before they are made. We're not saying planners should ask developers to resubmit applications so they can meet targets, ' she said.

Conran and Partners claimed it won support for the scheme from an independent panel of architects.

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