Constitution change after raft of planning call-ins by councillor

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A council has been forced to change its constitution to halt the ‘time wasting’ actions of a Haverhill councillor who has called-in a raft of planning applications across St Edmundsbury.

Cllr Gordon Cox, who represents Haverhill East, called-in 14 applications to be considered by St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s development control committee this month.

None were in his ward and in some cases he gave no reason for his action, said Joy Bowes, head of legal and democratic services, in a report to the committee.

In response, the council’s chief executive Ian Gallin has used his urgency powers to make an interim amendment to the constitution to limit call-ins by councillors.

Following the move, councillors will only be able to call-in applications for their ward.

However, if they have concerns about applications in another ward they could ask that area’s councillor to call-in the matter on their behalf.

In the report, Miss Bowes said: “The call-ins will generate considerable work for officers in the preparation of reports which is unsustainable if repeated regularly, will also generate more printing and will undoubtedly increase the time spent by officers and members at the development control committee meeting, all of which has a cost to the council.”

An affected applicant has complained formally about the delay which will be caused to his application.

Applications called-in by Cllr Cox include the demolition of storage buildings, in St Andrews Street North, Bury.

Cllr David Nettleton, who represents the Risbygate ward, said: “He’s just wasting time and holding people up for some reason best known to himself.”

When questioned by the Bury Free Press, Cllr Cox said “Any member is entitled to call-in an application.”

He added he had ‘no problem’ with the constitution change.

Councillors will debate if a permanent change should be made to the constitution next month.