Council applies for judicial review of one of its own planning decisions

A local authority has applied for a judicial review of one of its planning decisions, after a councillor voted in favour of an application brought by her brother-in-law.

Applicant Nick Barrett, owner of a restaurant in Long Melford, had applied to Babergh District Council for permission to build an annexe.

His application was approved at a meeting in November 2016. The minutes of the meeting note that Melanie Barrett, Mr Barrett’s sister-in-law, had stated that she had a family association with the applicant.

The minutes of the meeting also said that another councillor had stated that he was employed by a family member of the applicant.

The minutes continued: “Following clarification from Phil Devonald, Interim Deputy Monitoring Officer -Programme Delivery, the legal advisor to the Committee, the Councillors asserted that the statements by Councillors Barrett and Holt did not constitute a disclosable interest by reason of close family relationship or employment as provided for under the Suffolk Local Code of Conduct adopted by the Council.

“He advised however that this was a matter of public perception and confidence in the transparency and fairness of the system and that Members should consider whether they should take part in the proceedings given the nature of their relationship to the Applicant. This advice was not accepted by the Councillors concerned.”

A spokesman for Babergh told Local Government Lawyer that the council had not received any complaints but the authority considered it necessary to take the issue to judicial review.

“On the one hand it is not a good thing that we are having to do this,” he added. “However, it shows that the mechanisms are there to review our actions.”

Mr Barrett told the Suffolk Free Press that the annexe was being built for his 87-year-old father.

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