One of the issues I have been passionate about getting to the bottom of was when exactly Officers at Fenland District Council knew there was a mistake on their report for the Tesco application that was discussed and refused at the Whittlesey planning meeting on 29th August. This is really important because it was the basis for turning over the refusal and the subsequent (constitutionally questionable) approval of the Tesco application on 19th September. Members were never officially notified beforehand by officers - it was Tesco who sent the planning committee an email the evening before 19th September. Of course, if officers knew beforehand it would raise all sorts of questions - not least why members were allowed to go into that meeting blind to the facts and without officer comment and couldn't a more sensible strategy have been devised. Well, it seems that Officers at Fenland District Council were made aware of that mistake somewhere around 5th September, two weeks before the controversial planning committee - plenty of time to plan an alternative and sensible strategy. As some could guess, I am not happy. Officers will argue that they acted on legal advice, but I cannot help thinking that the "do nothing" approach is a factor with the problems we face - and one that should have been made public before now.
Last week I also sent an email to Fenland challenging the way they had handled the 44 complaints that have been received about the supermarket situation. Fenland have confirmed that "
What this means is that some of the complainants were not advised at the time their complaint was dealt with as to how they would progress things further if they weren't happy with the response - something that should be done routinely. I am going to follow this up with a few more questions, but given that the end stage of this complaints process is a potential referral to the Local Government Ombudsman, something many know I would welcome, you can see why I am annoyed."further information has been provided to a number of complainants where we are aware that they did not recieve full material, making clear what the process and next steps are in terms of the complaints procedure."
The trouble with both of the issues I have raised here is that they are a conspiracy theorist's delight - there are those who are making all sorts of accusations about all sorts of people and these facts emerging help that speculation rather than end it, that is one of the reasons I thought twice about putting them into the public domain. However, the flip side is that I also know that there are many, many Whittlesey people that want (and deserve) to know the truth, and it reinforces to me that we cannot rehear these applications (if that is what happens) until there is a clear understanding of what has gone wrong and why. Whittlesey residents must have confidence in whatever decision happens at the end of this mess; they must not be left with a supermarket that people will point a mistrusting finger at every time they see it. We need some sort of inquiry.
Of course, I can keep asking questions until the whole truth emerges - the problem with that approach is that it sends all the wrong messages and, of course, I can't say I know all of the right questions to ask (and I keep upsetting people by trying to find out the truth!!)