Decision on Blackburn free school deferred

A DECISION on Tauheedul Trust’s controversial bid to build a new boys’ school has been put off till the New Year by councillors despite a row over ‘vested interests’.

A meeting of Blackburn with Darwen borough planning and highways committee deferred considering the application for the Islamic academy in Shear Brow after a vote.

Council officials had recommended refusing the proposal in the latest stage of a long saga over the scheme to move the school to a new, purpose-built home.

Tory spokesman Alan Cottam objected, calling on the committee to push ahead with refusing the plan, leaving the final decision to a government inspector.

He was backed by Liberal Democrat Paul Browne.

The latest row makes the proposed September opening date for the new school increasingly unlikely.

Coun Cottam said: “Lets us support the officers recommendation to refuse the application then the trust can appeal our decision and it can be decided by a government planning inspector.

“There are too many vested interests involved for this council to approve this application.”

Shear Brow Labour councillor Solly Khonat had to leave the committee room after Coun Cottam raised the issue as he is a governor of the Tauheedul Trusts girls school.

It had submitted a revised plan after a High Court decision quashing a permission given in August for the demolition of the former YMCA building in Clarence Street and building of the new school.

Neighbours remain opposed, claiming the four-storey development would cause privacy, traffic and parking problems.

Planning officials recommended refusal of the new scheme as ‘a substantial over-development of the site, evidenced by a lack of external space to meet the needs of pupils’.

In the High Court in October, Judge Mark Pelling ruled advice given to councillors when they approved a revised scheme in August was incorrect.

Labour committee member Phil Riley said: “Solly left the moment we started to debate this issue. This is a very complicated application and we will have to do our best to come to the right decision when it returns in January or February.”

Tauheedul Trust declined to comment.

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