THE planning chairman at the eye of a storm over Worcester City’s proposed new home at Perdiswell is adamant objections are not down to party lines.

Councillor Chris Mitchell’s Conservatives and the Green Party have been accused of playing politics with the club’s quest to return home after more than five years out of the city.

Mitchell came under fire last week after his letter to the Worcester News referred to a passed planning application for a site at Nunnery Way as Parsonage Way – the recently quashed third option City had pursued.

Online criticism included suggestions Worcester City Council’s planning committee – which went against the advice of its officers in rejecting an application for Perdiswell that then got pushed through by the Planning Inspectorate – had been disinterested in the detail.

That was vehemently refuted by Mitchell.

“As a council, I believe we have gone out of our way to help to date. The club had an approved stadium application for Nunnery Way so it is not like the city is against it,” he said.

“We spent £57,000 trying to identify an alternative location at Parsonage Way which was fully supported across all parties and facilitated extensive meetings with the rugby club (Worcester Warriors) to try to identify some sort of working arrangement which didn’t come to fruition.

“At the behest of the football club we did not make that public because they did not want the supporters’ trust knowing about it at one phase.

“We were doing work on behalf of the club in the background without anyone knowing. I do take umbrage with anyone saying the city council has not bent over backwards to help."

As well as the mixed-up locations, Mitchell referred to Perdiswell as a circa-4,400 seater stadium rather than that figure being the full capacity.

“I put up my hands, I made the mistake of saying Parsonage Way instead of Nunnery Way when referring to the application that got approved,” he said.

“The reference to seating was just the terminology we had used over the past couple of years. I don’t see that as a mistake but can see why people jumped to that conclusion.

“What difference it makes I’m not sure because the number is still the same.

“I am willing to accept I got that wrong and if it caused confusion then I apologise.

“I completely refute that being indicative of us not giving the application due care and attention and the inspector’s report clearly articulates that considerable opportunity was given to the stadium across two applications.

“People were given the opportunity to speak at both meetings and due deference had been given to the application.

“The decision made by the committee was that the loss of green space, in accordance with the South Worcestershire Development Plan, meant it didn’t meet the requirements. It was a material planning reason.

“The inspector said that was a reasonable decision which was why he did not award costs. He had a different view because he believed some of the other elements outweighed that.

“There was no replacement for that green space around the city. We felt those impacts were significant. Those (reasons) completely reflect my views.

“The only reason it came down to my casting vote was because Councillor Louis Stephen was unable to vote having publicly declared his opposition to the stadium previously.

“Had he followed planning regulations and not declared his position, we would not have needed the chairman’s vote.

“I personally went to Perdiswell by myself outside of committee meetings to really get a view. I walked the canal along that area to try to understand what impact of the stadium would or would not be.

“I refute that allegation and think the inspector’s report backs up my argument.”