A FIERCE row erupted between councillors at a committee when it debated changes to the scheme for delegating planning decisions to officers.

Conservatives on Blackburn with Darwen planning committee objected to a change in wording claiming it reduced the rights of elected members.

The proposal removed the words ‘large scale major’ and ‘minor’ to distinguish between proposed developments where councillors rather than officers made decisions.

But the threshold for committee consideration on housing developments remained at 50 homes.

Conservative spokesman Cllr Paul Marrow said: “I am not happy. It is giving the power to make decisions to a third party.”

His Blackburn South and Lower Darwen colleague Cllr Jacquie Slater said: “We are the elected members responsible to voters. We should take these decisions not planning officers.”

Committee chairman Dave Smith said he and ward councillors could still refer developments of less than 50 homes to the committee especially if the generated objections.

Cllr Phil Riley, borough regeneration boss, said: “I am astonished by the Conservatives. Nothing has changed.

“If there was a development for 49 homes with no objections it could still be referred to the committee. But I am more likely to become the next Pope than there to be no objections to a 49 house scheme.”

He was backed by fellow Roe Lee Labour representative Sylvia Liddle who said: “I am astounded. Have you not read the papers?”

Cllr Slater snapped back: “I have been on this committee for years. I am not taking any lectures from you.”

Darwen East Liberal Democrat Cllr Paul Browne complained he had been excluded from a cross-party pre-meeting discussion on the issue.

Cllr Riley said: “That is because you are a man not a party. You need two members to be a party.”

The change was passed with the Tories and Cllr Browne voting against it.