A DEVELOPER has been accused of trying to hold a council to ransom to force through a controversial planning application.

Sanctuary Housing Group says it will apply for a public enquiry if Gravesham Council’s planning department does not recommend approval of its plans to build flats on green space in Gravesend.

A public enquiry into the application for 73 sheltered accommodation apartments on a field between Taunton Vale and Truro Road could cost the council up to £250,000 in taxpayers money.

The council’s regulatory board is set to make a decision on the application next month, and chairman Councillor Harold Craske says Sanctuary is trying to “hold the council to ransom”.

He said: “They are trying to bounce us into a decision and hold the council to ransom. They have basically given us an ultimatum, which of course is not right.”

A Sanctuary representative mentioned applying for a public enquiry in a letter sent to the council last week.

This followed the council’s planning department recommending the regulatory board defer a decision on the application at a meeting on Wednesday (April 14), which it did.

The letter said: “The applicant is willing to accept a one month deferral subject to a recommendation for approval at the May committee meeting.

“If this assurance cannot be given, we are authorised to advise that the applicant will lodge an appeal with the Secretary of State on the grounds of non determination.”

The planning department has not yet decided whether to recommend the regulatory board approve or decline the application at the meeting next month.

A Sanctuary spokesman said: “We are disappointed our planning application has been deferred by the council as we believe our plans for the site are in the best interests of the community.

“We will continue to work closely with the council and local people to ensure our proposals meet the expectations of all involved and a decision on our application can be made in the near future.”

The building will range from two to five storeys in height and will replace Wimborne House, a 31-flat sheltered housing block already on a section of the land.

More than 150 Taunton Vale and Truro Road residents have written to the council to oppose the scheme, which will consume an extra acre of the field.

Truro Road resident Mandy Hearn, 41, says the development will “take away green space that is a big part of this community”.

She said: “Children play on the grass and people walk their dogs there, so we want to keep the land. Also, the new building will block sunlight from our homes and be an eyesore.”