Planning chaos as staff unknowingly determine real applications

Planning chaos as staff unknowingly determine real applications

‘Your proposal is whack’: Chaos as ‘junior worker’ who thought he was testing dummy council website rejects and approves REAL planning applications – including allowing two pubs to be demolished – and it is all legally BINDING

  • Staff at Swale Council, Kent accidentally rejected or approved five applications
  • Blunder was made by a ‘junior’ staff member at Mid Kent Planning Support team 
  • The person was trying to resolve software issues, but in doing so, five ‘dummy’ decisions, used to test the website was working, were accidentally published
  • Among them included the rejection of an animal sanctuary to stay on its site 
  • Two Kent pubs were also given permission to be demolished or part-demolished
  • A butcher’s change-of-use applicaton in Sittingbourne was turned down 
  • A farm was granted planning permission with 20 conditions, listed just as 1 – 20 

Bungling council staff have accidentally approved or rejected five planning applications, adding bizarre sarcastic comments at the end of each one.

One applicant, a charity boss was told their scheme was turned down because ‘your proposal is whack’.

But even though they were mistakes, lawyers have told bosses at Swale Council in Kent the decisions are legally binding and they will have to spend thousands obtaining a judicial review to have each decision reversed in court.

The astonishing blunder by the Mid Kent Planning Support team, which handles online planning matters for Swale council, happened when a ‘junior’ member of staff was trying to resolve software issues.

In doing so, five ‘dummy’ decisions, used to test the website was working, were accidentally published.

Among them was the sarcastic refusal to a desperate bid by Happy Pants animal sanctuary to stay on its site near Sittingbourne.

Pictured: Amey James, founder of The Happy Pants Ranch, was given a sarcastic refusal to its request to stay on its site near Sittingbourne in Kent – one of five planning applications accidentally rejected or approved by bungling council staff

Pictured: A satellite image showing the plot of land in Kent where the Happy Pants Ranch is, which the animal sanctuary applied to remain on but was refused 

Pictured: The planning decision notice given to the Happy Pants Ranch, with reasons given listed as: ‘Your proposal is whack’ and ‘no mate, proper whack’

The charity was told ‘your proposal is whack’ and ‘no mate, proper whack’. Making good the mistaken planning decisions is now set to cost at least £8,000.

A butcher’s change-of-use applicaton in Sittingbourne was also turned down, along with the official response: ‘No, just don’t’, while the partial demolition of The Wheatsheaf pub in Sittingbourne, was granted, with the comment ‘incy, wincy, spider’.

Another application, for the demolition of a pub in Sheerness, to make way for flats, was granted, with the bizarre comment was ‘why am I doing this, am I the chosen one?’

Meanwhile, an application for the change of use for a barn to provide storage for seeds and crop protection products, precision farm services and office space in Bredgar Road, Tunstall, was granted, apparently with 20 conditions, which were just the numbers 1-20.

Swale council is now seeking to quash the planning decisions issued in error.

It said that, on August 19, officers for the Mid Kent Planning Support team were trying to find a solution for issues with the software behind the public access site but, during the exercise, ‘dummy’ decision notices on five randomly selected Swale applications were published on the live system.

The partial demolition of The Wheatsheaf pub in Sittingbourne was granted, with the comment under the reasons given saying ‘incy, wincy, spider’

Pictured: The planning decision notice given to the Wheatsheaf pub by Swale Council

After being alerted to the mistake, the decision notices were swiftly removed from the site, but legal advice has subsequently confirmed they are legally binding and must be overturned before the correct decisions are made.

Amey James, founder of The Happy Pants Ranch, told KentOnline: ‘Obviously the comments are quite laughable, but if I had gone on there this morning before I saw the email from Swale council about the error I think I would have had a heart attack – I would have been properly panicking; the future of the ranch depends on this decision.’

She added: ‘I kept thinking this was going to go to the planning committee in September, but now because of this, it’s probably going to be delayed even further.

‘At this rate, we are probably not going to know by Christmas. It’s just awful not knowing.’

Swale council’s leader, Cllr Roger Truelove, and deputy leader, Cllr Mike Baldock, said they were angered and frustrated that an administrative error by staff working in the Mid Kent shared planning service had led to the issuing of false planning decision notices.

They said: ‘These errors will have to be rectified but this will cause totally unnecessary concern to applicants. 

A butcher’s change-of-use applicaton in Sittingbourne was also turned down

Under reasons given for the refusal, the butcher was told ‘Just don’t. No’ in the comments

Another application, for the demolition of a pub in Sheerness, to make way for flats, was granted, with the bizarre comment was ‘why am I doing this, am I the chosen one?

Pictured: The planning decision notice granting permission for the demolition of the Old House At Home in Sheerness

‘This is not the first serious problem following the transfer of our planning administration to Mid Kent shared services.

‘We will wait for the outcome of a roper investigation and then consider our appropriate response as a council.’

Swale council said the language was used by junior officer with no knowledge of the applications, who believed they were working solely in a test environment with the comments never being published.

It added that an investigation was underway to understand exactly what happened ‘to ensure that lessons are learned and any necessary action in relation to the conduct of officers involved is taken’.

The authority said the quickest legal way to deal with the issue was to use the judicial review process to have the decisions quashed

It added: ‘This is not uncommon and, if uncontested, could be complete in two to three months. We have notified each of the applicants of the error and will continue to liaise with them as the matter progresses.’

An application for the change of use for a barn to provide storage for seeds and crop protection products, precision farm services and office space in Tunstall, was granted

Permission was granted, apparently with 20 conditions, which were just the numbers 1-20

The review is expected to cost about £8,000, if unchallenged, and Swale council expects Mid Kent to pay for it.

Julien Speed, chairman of Lynsted with Kingsdown Parish Council, told KentOnline: ‘This is quite an extraordinary error. Yes the public access site for planning needs much improvement, but where is the quality control when testing software?

‘Swale council is now saying they will seek a judicial review through the courts to overturn these five rogue decisions. What a massive waste of ratepayers’ money.’

Cllr Cameron Beart, who represents Queenborough and Halfway on Swale council, added: ‘I am absolutely horrified that one of them is the demolition of the Old House at Home in Sheerness High Street.

‘I make no comment about the application in general, but if it has been approved without any consideration and without any conditions attached, it is a serious issue.’

Source: Read Full Article