Council's £2,000 error

COUNCIL chiefs are having to fork out £2,000 in compensation after being brought to book for its poor planning processes by a Government ombudsman

COUNCIL chiefs are having to fork out £2,000 in compensation after being brought to book for its poor planning processes by a Government ombudsman.The authority was reported to the Local Government Ombudsman for allowing a house to be built in the garden of a property at Bucklands Grove, Nailsea.Despite local councillors raising concerns about the development, approval was given by planning officers.The ombudsman ruled the application should have been decided by the planning committee and that 'there were serious failings by the council in the way the application was determined'.The ombudsman also recommended the council review its procedures.In his report, ombudsman Jerry White said: "Ward councillors were clearly of the view that the application was contentious and would automatically go to committee for a decision if officers were recommending approval."But the officers were both of the view that the proposal was acceptable and could not be regarded as a contentious application."The misunderstanding be-tween officers and members meant the application did not go before the committee."The council needs to ensure that there is a clearer understanding between officers and members as to what constitutes a controversial application and the procedure to be followed to request an application be considered by the committee, especially when it is recommended for approval by officers."Dr Hollingworth, one of the residents who complained to the ombudsman, said: "I hope this will encourage others to speak out if they feel they have been treated unfairly by the council."The council needs to be made accountable for its actions."Woodspring MP Liam Fox, who took the complaint forward on behalf of Dr Hollingworth, said: "I am delighted compensation is being paid to those who have been so disadvantaged by the council's decision."However, I remain appalled that officers acted in a way that both ignored public opinion and undermined the democratic system. North Somerset Council needs to pull its socks up and get procedures in place to ensure councillors are properly informed so that decisions genuinely reflect public concerns.

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