High Peak Borough Council apologises over ‘significant flaws’

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High Peak Borough Council has apologised after an official found ‘significant flaws’ in its evaluation of a major housing development.

In May 2015, the council granted conditional planning permission for Gladman Homes to build almost 110 properties on greenfield land between Macclesfield Road and Linglongs Road in Whaley Bridge.

The Whaley Bridge Matters campaign group became concerned the council and its planning officers had not followed correct procedures and complained to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO).

The LGO found in favour of the group, ruling: “The council’s initial evaluation of the application in August 2014 was significantly flawed.

“Although the report presented to members in March 2015 gave a fair evaluation of the application, the decision was finely balanced.

“It is impossible to say whether members, when reaching their decision, had followed the various legal twists and turns and fully understood the complex issues involved.”

The LGO report also stated: “The complainants say they have lost all confidence in the council’s decision-making.

“Although they sensed the application had not been evaluated as it should have been, none had the necessary expertise to challenge the process and, as a result, they incurred professional costs in excess of £6,500.

“The complainants should not have been put to this expense.”

A Whaley Bridge Matters spokesman said: “This result is very gratifying to all of our members and we hope that the council and its planning officers are as good as their word when dealing with such matters in the future.

“Whaley Bridge Matters will continue to work to ensure the best outcome for our members and the people of Whaley Bridge.”

In a letter to Whaley Bridge Matters, Robert Weaver, head of regulatory services at the council, said: “Further to the ombudsman’s decision, I write to apologise for the time, trouble and unnecessary expense you incurred.

“I can assure you that on receipt of a future reserved matters application, residents, along with the town council, will have the opportunity to comment on the development proposals. The council very much welcomes participation in the planning process.

“Although the council did not perform to the expected standards in this case, I wish to reassure you that we will act on the criticisms raised by the ombudsman.”

A council spokesman said the authority had nothing to add to Mr Weaver’s letter.