Have ‘political’ decisions cost council tax payers thousands?

The Golden Key was turned into a Sainsbury's after an appeal

The Golden Key was turned into a Sainsbury's after an appeal - Credit: Archant

Members of Ipswich council’s planning committee have come under fire from the town’s MP Ben Gummer after the borough lost an appeal over an application to open a new cab office in Falcon Street.

Officers had recommended that the application by Cabsmart to take over the office should be approved at the planning meeting last April.

However the Labour majority on the committee voted against approval, prompting applicant Ian Fountain to lodge an appeal.

The Planning Inspectorate has now upheld the appeal – and awarded costs against the borough.

Planning inspector David Spencer said in his letter: “I find that unreasonable behaviour resulting in unnecessary expense has been demonstrated and that a full award of costs is justified.”

This was the second time in three years that councillors had ignored officers’ advice, which has led to a decision being overturned at appeal and costs ordered against the borough – the same happened over the application to turn the Golden Key pub into a Sainsbury’s supermarket.

Mr Gummer said it was very unusual for costs to be awarded against a local council, it only happened when an inspector found that councillors had acted unreasonably.

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He said: “Sadly, it is predictable that IBC went against planning advice and sought to get in his way. This is becoming something of a pattern of late – planning decisions taken on political grounds but contrary to planning law. The result is wholly avoidable cost to local taxpayers and delays for local businesses.”

Council leader – and Mr Gummer’s Labour opponent in May’s general election – David Ellesmere said councillors had a democratic duty to make planning decisions on behalf of their voters.

“Otherwise you’d just pass all the decisions over to the officers and no one would have any democratic control.”

He had been told councillors of all parties had voted against the cab office and he knew there was a lot of local opposition to the conversion of the Golden Key into a supermarket.

Mr Ellesmere said: “We should not apologise for doing all we could to represent residents of east Ipswich who did not want their neighbourhood pub closed – it was the government’s planning inspector who overturned a democratic decision.”