September 19 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, August 28, 2014
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.
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.