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Planning decisions branded unlawful

PUBLISHED: 11:17 09 July 2008 | UPDATED: 20:50 05 July 2010

Two key planning decisions made by Waveney District Council have been branded unlawful - less than a year after a government watchdog gave the service a zero rating.

Two key planning decisions made by Waveney District Council have been branded unlawful - less than a year after a government watchdog gave the service a zero rating.

Councillors refused permission for two developments in Lowestoft last month, but the decisions could be revoked because they were made unlawfully. Proposals to build 14 affordable homes on the site of the car-sales showroom on Rushmere Road, Carlton Colville, and eight bungalows behind a house on Rowan Way in Lowestoft, were turned down at the same development control committee meeting on June 18.

Although the decisions were passed, the council's monitoring officer has claimed that some members of the committee made up their minds about the applications before the debate on the night. This is against council rules - which state that members must listen to the arguments for and against the plans before making a decision - and could leave the council open to appeals or costly judicial review proceedings at the High Court.

An extraordinary council meeting is being held tomorrow to discuss the legality of the planning decisions.

In a report for the meeting, the council's assistant chief executive and monitoring officer Arthur Charvonia said: “At least one councillor during the debate of each of these applications read directly from a pre-prepared speech.

“The manner in which they did so gave the impression that those councillors had decided which way to vote on the application prior to the meeting, and that they had not therefore taken into account the evidence and debate at the meeting.”

This is not the first time that planning at Waveney has been criticised.

In September, the Audit Commission issued a scathing report about the council's planning service, giving it a zero-star rating with poor prospects for improvement.

At the same development control meeting last month, members of the public were given agendas with incorrect and outdated reports about plans to build mental-health flats in Noel's Walk, Beccles.

A 38-house estate off Quay Street in Halesworth was also approved at the June meeting but will be discussed again on Tuesday as the main objector was given the wrong date for when the matter was to be decided.

The two revoked decisions will also be debated again by the committee on Tuesday.

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