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Watchdog urges greater clarity over reasons for planning decisions

Published: Thursday, 18th February 2016

The Local Government Ombudsman has insisted that planning committees should record the reasons for their decisions clearly, particularly when their result conflicts with officers’ recommendations

The watchdog stressed that decision making should be as open and transparent as possible, particularly in the face of public opposition.

The LGO has reported that this was not the case in a recent investigation involving Erewash Borough Council in Derbyshire.

Neighbours complained to the LGO about the way the council approved an application for a development on green belt land near their homes. They made a number of complaints, including that the initial application was not advertised properly, and that members did not give any reasons for granting the proposed extensions planning permission. The LGO upheld some of the complaints.

The application was recommended for refusal because the proposed extensions were disproportionate to the size of the original building and would increase the building’s prominence.

The officer’s report to the committee included details of the neighbours’ objections and those of the local parish council along with representations from the applicant and his agent.

Following a site visit, members decided to approve the application against the officer’s recommendation. However, no record was made of the reasons for their decision.

The watchdog recommended that Erewash Borough Council apologise to the neighbours for failing to publicise the application as a departure from the local plan and for also not giving reasons for the decision to grant planning permission.

Read details of the decision.

Roger Milne