Vivary Green Wedge plans in Taunton - 'maladministration didn't cause injustice' (From Somerset County Gazette)
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Vivary Green Wedge plans in Taunton - 'maladministration didn't cause injustice'
9:00am Thursday 31st October 2013 in News
OVER 300 homes will still be built on farmland near the centre of Taunton – despite “evidence of maladministration” by the planning authority.
Taunton Deane Council has been rapped over the knuckles after it emerged that notes of an important phone conversation with a lawyer went missing.
But while the Ombudsman concluded the council was “at fault”, she said the loss of the notes “did not affect the outcome” of the planning application in the Killams area of the Vivary Green Wedge.
David Orr, who was among hundreds of opponents at a meeting in April when the proposals were approved, had appealed to the Ombudsman to force the Deane into holding another vote on the application by Summerfield Developments.
He said: “This result was not unexpected and I’m afraid that the assigned investigator wasn’t very sympathetic to our cause, arguments or evidence from the outset.
“His verdict on Taunton Deane Council’s record and meeting note losses is a modest recommendation to improve their record keeping.”
The dispute centred on a conference call involving the planning case officer and a Deane solicitor with an independent barrister, who advised that the application should be approved.
The Ombudsman’s report says: “The council’s solicitor made a few hand-written notes of the telephone call, but these cannot be found.
“We do not expect that legal advice is always recorded or typed in a letter or a report. A hand-written note may well suffice.
“But, the advice was relevant to the council’s decision and we would expect the council to keep some record of what was said by the barrister.
“The council is at fault for not keeping proper records, but I cannot say the failure to do so made a difference to the outcome.”
The report says that council officers have been reminded of the importance of keeping records of advice and other information relied on to make decisions.
It adds: “There is evidence of maladministration, but it did not cause an injustice.”
A Deane spokeswoman said: “The council has received the report from the Ombudsman and will now assess its findings.”
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