PLANS to build 66 homes on a “contaminated eyesore” in a Forest village have been delayed because highways chiefs didn’t show up – one was on leave and the other had Covid-19.

Whitecroft Properties Limited wants permission from the Forest Council to develop the former pin factory on land off New Road in Whitecroft.

A decision on the outline planning application, which includes the construction of up to 66 homes with 26,910 sq ft of industrial use, was due last Tuesday (April 11).

However, the development management committee voted to defer the proposals because they had too many queries regarding the road and access to the site and there was nobody from Gloucestershire County Council to answer them.

Jenny Henderson, speaking on behalf of the applicant, said the brownfield site was currently occupied by large rundown industrial buildings.

“They have been largely vacant for a number of years when Whitecroft Essentials relocated to Vantage Point, another business part under the ownership of the applicant,” she said.

“The buildings are not fit for purpose for modern businesses and the site as a whole is an eyesore detracting from the local area.” She said the principle of mixed use development at the site is supported and council officers recommended approving the scheme.

Councillors raised several questions over access to the site and were frustrated that there were no county highways officers in attendance.

Councillor Julia Gooch (Progressive Independents, Newent and Taynton) said: “We are trying to decide on a planning application when we need highways here. We are short on the information that we need. It’s a pointless exercise.”

She asked if highways had given any reasons why they were not present at the meeting in Coleford.

Planning officer Tony Pope explained that there are two highways officers that attend their meetings.

“One has been on leave and the officer that was due to come has contracted Covid. So it would be inappropriate for him to attend today. He’s only just tested positive for that this morning.”

Chairman Philip Burford (I, Hartpury and Redmarley) said: “In the world he used to live in, if somebody that worked for you couldn’t go to a commitment, the boss would come instead. But perhaps those values don’t exist anymore.”

Councillor Richard Boyles (C, Newnham), former Forest of Dean police inspector, said the site had some “very nasty chemicals” that were a problem when they were called there a number of years ago.

He said: “I would say there are issues there with that site with regard to ground contamination. I really want this authority to be very careful about how it makes that site clear for families to live on it.”

The committee voted to defer the proposals to request a formal response from the highways authority to their questions. They also said councillors would be minded to refuse the proposals due to there being more houses proposed than those allocated for the site in the local plan.

The committee will also write a strongly worded letter to Gloucestershire County Council regarding the performance of the highways department.