A council has been accused of bias in the way it handled proposals for a £2.6million new pub and restaurant in a seaside town.

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It has been alleged that Suffolk Coastal gave more weight to a few letters supporting the JD Wetherspoon development than it did to dozens of objections urging the authority to reject the application.

Councillors approved the project to replace the old Central Surgery in Felixstowe in line with officers’ recommendations.

Gareth and Steffi Lomax, whose home in High Road West is opposite the site, have written to the council’s monitoring officer Hilary Slater to lodge a formal objection.

Mr Lomax claimed the council’s planning officers had been “at best unhelpful and at worst obstructive” during the planning process, and he felt the decision in favour of development had been “railroaded”.

He said the council’s website recorded 59 objections and only one supporting comment from all comments received.

However, 38 days after the consultation notice had expired, the planning department posted another supporting comment.

He said: “The planning officer in charge highlighted this particular document during the hearing, mentioning the reasons for the support from the member of the public.

“In my opinion, the planning officer demonstrated clear bias towards this application, particularly as we are aware of objections being held back while supporting comments (both of them!) were championed.”

A spokesman for Suffolk Coastal said the council took all complaints very seriously. He said: “All officers work to the council’s customer service standards and we will respond, if we do not meet those targets.

“All of our councillors have agreed to observe the Suffolk Code of Conduct, which lays out how they should conduct themselves.”

Complaints are dealt with by the council’s monitoring officer and an independent person appointed by the council, who will decide what further action, if any, should be taken.

Complainants are fully updated on the progress and outcome of their complaint.

16 comments

  • I am entirely neutral about the Wetherspoon's proposal as there are good cases to be argued by both sides. What bothers me in the article is the reported "However, 38 days after the consultation notice had expired, the planning department posted another supporting comment." If this is true and a complete and fair summary of the facts, this stinks of institutional bias.

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    Dai Jones

    Friday, August 29, 2014

  • I might add that I'm agnostic about the Wetherspoons proposal. It may well add something to the town, but the devil will be in the detail. If they get it wrong, then it could be damaging - but there is certainly a dearth of decent pubs in the town centre. Does that justify a big pub on the very edge of a residential area, rather than in the heart of the town or on the front? Spa Pavilion site for example? I am mainly bothered about the lack of consideration and weight given to residents' views on this and (more particularly) other planning applications by the Tory SCDC. It seems that SCDC planning committee really doesn't listen to public opinion - and isn't bothered whether or not they are seen to give proper consideration to contentious plans...especially in Felixstowe.

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    KJP

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • Yawn again does sound like to me not in my back yard so you would rather leave the empty site as it is and all boarded up surgery. Its going to be a family restaurant pub and not a night club where you would likely see drunk people. This wetherspoons is very much welcome and a big company coming to Felixstowe and a very big boost to our town cant wait to use it and have a great value food. Some people are so quick into trying to stop things going ahead in our town

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    Antony Perkins

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • Oh dear Mr Lomax, sounds like this is "not in my back yard", perhaps you would prefer to keep looking at the decrepit old surgery buildings. Did you object to Prezzo taking up huge retail space in town? I for one am really looking forward to the new development of Wetherspoons and being able to enjoy a nice meal in pleasant surroundings. Come on 59 objections out of the whole town, clearly nowhere near enough to turn this down. We should embrace the fact that businesses still want to invest in our town.

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    October girl

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • If Wetherspoons do not develop that site it will be come a rat infested dump and then how with the people that live near there like that?

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    zaax

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • 59 objections? Chicken feed, not worth considering when as others say they just "don't want it!". This is a rare and welcome investment in the town, plenty of free parking behind Solar and something to enliven the dead atmosphere many evenings. I to am sometimes in disbelief at the Planning Depts activities, in particular the ridiculous Supermarket off High Road West but on this occasion I think they are correct. So lets get on with it.

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    Disbeliever

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • The number of objections is irrelevant. It's the content that counts. 59 people saying "It'll be ugly" is not a valid reason to dismiss a proposal.

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    Marc Turner

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • 59 objections. A google search say's there are over 29,000 people in Felixstowe. Thats 0.2% of people object. Not worth even thinking about.

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    Ipswich Man

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • Far more objections were raised over the development of the superstore behind High road West which affects far more residents but once again the councils minds were already made, there was a far better location on the table which went to waste and nearly a year on nothings happened to the site in question but for the record I'm very much for the Wetherspoons

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    Alan Smith

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • but the quantity of objections is only relevant if they are valid to the planning application in hand,and the vast majority weren't.Unfortunately locals in these instances convince themselves simply registering as many anti or negative views counts, it doesnt.

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    beerbaron

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • Sounds like sour grapes by those who could not get their own way ,, 59 only objections !

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    pandy

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • @KJP - Although Suffolk Coastal's and Waveney's Planning Departments have effectively been merged (without reference to the electorate), and which you will see from their website, it is the case that Southwold planning still theoretically comes under Waveney. If you look at the slew of objections to coffee shops and all sorts of other changes to both the retail and residential faces of the town, and most of which have been ignored by WDC, I think it is fair to say that the biases and failure to recognise local interests and concerns that you identify in Coastal vis a vis Felixstowe are also rampant in Waveney for Southwold. If the planning departments are effectively one and the same, it is scarcely surprising that the same abject philosophy of ignoring everyone from Town Councils downwards permeates the whole thing.

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    T Doff

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • 59 objections is hardly overwhelming. Let's welcome investment in the town, better than derelict buildings. Mind you, kjp is quite right in pointing out the bias in SCDC against Felixstowe. Actually I would call it contempt.

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    paul

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • We have three in Ipswich and they are all very popular. The biggest blight on Felixstowe is the amusement sprawl at Manning's end.

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    m01

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • Surely a decent Pub in the centre of town is something to be welcomed in Felixstowe. Southwold has lots of good pubs. Felixstowe's, a much bigger town, does not.

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    amsterdam81

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • I'm afraid this is entirely typical of Tory Suffolk Coastal's attitude towards Felixstowe. They have determined that Southwold and Aldeburgh should be protected from the predations of development at the expense of Felixstowe, which gets the prominent pub, the unwanted over-dense 200 houses on the edge of the AONB and (if we're not careful) a travellers' site on the edge of town where the "Welcome to Felixstowe" sign is. It is pure Tory-led prejudice that is eroding the present pleasant balance of the town. They would be well-advised to shuffle their planning officers occasionally too, as those responsible are not well-regarded locally.

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    KJP

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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