RESIDENTS hit out after planners approved a scheme to build 14 new detached homes in the rambling Norton grounds of a former newspaper magnate’s mansion.

Dudley’s development control committee last night (Monday) gave the green light to the plan by Kendrick Homes Ltd to knock down the Whittington Road home of the late Eric Moody, who owned the County Express, and replace it with new four and five bedroom executive houses.

The plan for the 2.6-acre plot divided the committee - which voted 4-4.

But chairman, councillor Qadar Zada, had the casting vote and pushed the scheme through – to the shock of nearby residents who had raised fears about the number of properties proposed, parking problems, loss of light and trees and the possible de-valuation of property prices in the area.

Objector Janet Davies said after the meeting at Dudley Council House: “I think it was a shambles.

"Nobody put their hands up properly so they were visible and the woman on the end changed her mind several times. The least they could have done was go and view the site.”

Councillor Tim Wright was among committee members worried about the scheme and he said the proposed two-storey family homes would be "overbearing" to neighbouring bungalows.

Former committee chairman, councillor Colin Wilson, also had concerns about the scheme which he said "ticks quite a lot of boxes - however there have been over 25 objections which for this sort of application is absolutely enormous".

He had earlier called for a site visit but the idea was rejected after the committee was told the house types and parking provision were considered acceptable and the loss of unprotected trees would not harm the area.

Ward councillor Heather Rogers said afterwards: “It’s a prime site for development but the developer is not taking residents objections into consideration properly. I definitely think there should have been a site visit in this case.”

Architect Alun Nicholas, who spoke on behalf of the concerned residents, said he was “disappointed” at the outcome.

He added: “These people were not suffering from NIMBYISM – they were not against the development of the site but simply wished their valid concerns to be taken into account.

“For an application which received over 20 residents' objections, two from ward councillors and the only voices in the chamber to be dissenting ones, it is almost a parody of the system that it should be voted through on the ambivalence of some members and the chair's casting vote.

"With no appeal process available to third parties in the current planning system, these residents will have to live with the adverse consequences of this development.

“Recent moves toward localism were supposed to give communities a stronger voice; patently, it’s not yet working here."

Bentley-driving businessman Mr Moody, who owned the old Mark & Moody stationery store in Stourbridge, died in 2012, aged 99 - leaving his distinctive home, a converted barn with buildings set around a central atrium, to Oriel College in Oxford which put the site up for sale last year.