Friday, 7 December 2012

Meeting With Officers at Fenland District Council

I had an extremely useful meeting with a couple of Officers at Fenland District Council today.  Given that I have been critical in the past and have been extremely challenging of them, I think it is only right that I say the positive stuff.

One of the things we did today was go through the timeline of what happened between the planning meeting of 29th August and the meeting of 19th September to discuss the actions officers took and, in particular, what they did after being notified of the error in the Tesco planning report (which they were notified of on 5th September).

It is a conversation I probably should have had some months ago and it is pretty clear to me, that even though I don't agree with everything that happened, it was for absolutely the best of intentions and, most importantly, was done with clear legal advice.

I still don't like what has happened, and I have said that I will continue to be challenging over the supermarkets issue.  But if I am critical in public and in private (which I have been) - then it is important I make sure that I put some of the positives out in the public domain - and I think it is important my view following my discussion of this morning is made public.


  1. Wow ! Do my eyes deceive me, or have you blogged the words “error in the ...... planning report”. When you chaired Planning you blindly refused to accept that there could possibly be any error in an Officer’s report to committee. When, during our application, such an event occurred, you ignored our protests at committee, and failed to reply to our subsequent letters. That error (and resulting refusal) forced us to Appeal (which we won). Should we have held you personally responsible for our costs ?
    There is a considerable schadenfreude in witnessing ‘game keeper turned poacher’ !

  2. I very nearly refused to publish this because it was so outrageous. But the truth is, as is often the case, your comments are separated from reality.

    Many time as Chairman of planning I had people complain about inaccuracies with officer reports - more often than not on the day of planning and with no notice. In those instances, unless officers could suggest otherwise - or it was clear there really was an issue - we had to move forward on the basis that it was accurate. But I also often told people if they thought there was maladministration in the way the report was compiled they should followup with a complaint to the council's 3Cs process.

    Planning is based on judgements - and those judgements are often tested at appeal. If an appeal is won by the applicant and planning permission is granted it does not mean that there was an error in a report or that there was maladministration, it just means that one person's judgement is different to another person's.

    In the case of the Whittlesey supermarkets the fact that there was an error on an officer report for the Tesco site is not a matter that is in dispute, it is a fact which has been admitted.

  3. I'm confused. How can a complaints procedure resolve an error in a quasi judicial process ? Our application was refused on incorrect information provided by Officers. Complaining about the officer would not have righted the planning wrong, reversed the decision, or even brought it back before Committee.

    Have Tesco been forced to endure the 3Cs process ?

  4. There is one issue - which is maladministration which relates to the completion of a report -it is the decision that is quasi-judicial. There are a number of complaints in at Fenland about the supermarket situation at Whittlesey, a number of which are, I understand, at the second stage of the 3Cs process.

  5. Christine Colbert12 December 2012 at 00:45

    You appear to be missing the point.
    The FDC 3Cs Complaints system may deal with correcting or improving the process, but it cannot change a result that has already been achieved.
    It cannot reverse a Planning decision.
    Neither can it remove from the record of the site details of a past planning decision (even though the decision may have been reached based on flawed information).
    The 3Cs system may result in improvement of the process for the future, and it may be able to allow the complaining applicant a further application free of a fee, but that is not the issue.

  6. But you also miss the point, which is that you had a remit via the appeals system - so the system worked. There is a huge difference between the situation you highlight and the supermarkets issue.