A meeting called to determine a Midland council's official position over the expansion of Coventry Airport ended in chaos last night amid claims that the local authority was now in a "vacuum".
In the latest twist to the ongoing dispute between Warwick District Council and the owners of the Baginton hub, councillors of the local authority's planning committee threw out recommendations to accept a package of mitigation measures offered by the airport to restrict operations.
The decision goes against the previous stance taken by the same committee in July to accept the mitigation package, which would have given the council at least some form of control over the expansion of the airport.
Plans by Coventry Airport to build a 10,000 sq ft passenger terminal to cater for two million passengers a year have already been rejected by the planning committee.
The decision on whether to give the expansion the goahead will now be taken by a Government Inspector at a planning inquiry which is to be held in January.
The airport is considered likely to win that inquiry, and so councillors agreed in July to accept the mitigation package which would limit the operation ' s effects on the environment.
But last night the committee threw out the mitigation package, which was to form the basis of the council's position at the inquiry.
Amid extraordinary scenes at the Council House, in Leamington Spa, the local authority's head of planning and engineering, John Archer, told committee members after the vote that it had left the council with no case to take to the inquiry.
Speaking to the committee, he said: "At the moment I have nothing. You will need to tell me exactly what my statement of case is going to be."
Coun Jose Compton (Con Leek Wootton) said the council was in a "vacuum".
She added: "We do leave the planning officer in somewhat of a dilemma. It obviously leaves him and Warwick District Council in a vacuum. It is up to the people who voted against it to put forward an alternative recommendation." Councillors continued the meeting in private before deciding to adjourn until Wednesday.
Last night's decision was welcomed by residents fighting the expansion of the airport.
However, Mr Archer warned the committee that voting against the mitigation package would leave the airport free to expand its operations without constraints from the council.
"The airport can use its infrastructure to operate any number of aircraft without planning permission," he said.