THE reputation of a council is at risk after a series of u-turns over a planning application, according to its members.
At a meeting of Forest Heath District Council’s planning committee on February 15, members approved a change of use application from Chaise Farm Stables, in Tuddenham, despite officers recommending that it be refused. A decision had already been deferred from a meeting on December 21.
But the council’s monitoring officer, Peter Heard, decided that to approve the plans was against the rule of law as it was a departure from the council’s Development Plan.
The application was then deferred to a meeting of the full council on Wednesday night, where councillors decided to send it back to planning committee for a third time.
Having heard from applicant, Dr Catherine Dunnett, that the plans did meet planning criteria, several councillors expressed concern that to go back on the approval could be damaging.
Cllr Neil Williams said: “It damages our reputation as an organisation and this has gone on long enough.
“We should have had this legal advice after the first meeting.”
Cllr Robin Millar said it was only the second time in his nine years of being a councillor that he had seen a similar situation.
“The stakes for getting this wrong are enormous – we have to thrash it out in planning committee,” he said.
The plans are to change the use of paddock land to garden land, including the siting of children’s play equipment.
Cllr Bill Bishop was one of a small number of councillors who felt the plans should be approved.
Despite Cllr Bishop putting forward a motion to allow the decision to approve the application to stand, councillors eventually voted to send it back to planning committee.