News release from 17/11/2020

Council apology and investigation following two planning errors

Council apology and investigation following two planning errors

South Cambridgeshire District Council has formally apologised and started investigations after two planning permission errors.

One mistake led to planning permission for an extension and annexe in Steeple Morden being issued in error. The second has seen a planning permission being issued without the accompanying conditions. 

The Council has spoken and written to both applicants and their planning agents to apologise. 

The Council’s Legal Team has been told by Lead Cabinet Member for Planning, Cllr Dr. Tumi Hawkins, to launch proceedings in the High Court to overturn the decisions. Judicial Reviews are the only option to rescind planning applications that have been wrongly issued by a Council. 

Investigations by the Council’s Internal Audit team, independent of the Planning Service, have already begun to further examine what happened in each case. The findings and recommendations will be published and presented to Councillors at a future public meeting. 

The permission in Steeple Morden was generated despite the planning application still being open for people to comment on. This planning decision, issued without the relevant authorisation, was caused by human error when the wrong box was ticked on the planning computer system. 

The issuing of the planning permission included the publication of the decision on the planning section of the Council’s website on Friday (13 November). The Council immediately notified the applicant and temporarily took down the decision notice while deciding on the way forwards. This incorrect decision notice has now been republished on the Council’s website. 

This decision had already been quashed by the High Court once after administrative errors in the way it was initially considered. To avoid further delay, the applicant has been invited to submit a new planning application for their proposed extension and annexe. 

The second planning application error that Cllr Dr. Tumi Hawkins is starting legal proceedings to overturn relates to the landscaping, layout and other details around eight new homes in Great Abington. 

The application was approved at a meeting of the Council’s Planning Committee last Wednesday (11 November). However, a human error led to the formal decision notice being issued without several accompanying necessary conditions recommended by officers and required by the Committee. 

The Council will ask the High Court to rescind this planning decision so that the decision notice can be re-issued with the agreed conditions attached. 

The original Judicial Review in Steeple Morden cost the Council approximately £5,000. These two Judicial Reviews are expected to cost similar amounts. 

Council Leader, Cllr Bridget Smith, said: “We are very sorry. We’ve spoken to the applicants and their planning agents in both of these cases, and have written to them, to apologise. Our Internal Audit Team is already investigating what has happened. We’ll be reviewing the recommendations from their report as well as looking at how we can change our processes to try and further limit the possibilities for human error. Unfortunately, we have no option but to go to the High Court to rescind these incorrect permissions and this is why the Lead Cabinet Member for Planning has already started this process. We are taking this very seriously and I want to apologise again.”