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South East council seeks to quash planning decisions issued in error

Words: Laura Edgar

Swale Borough Council is seeking judicial reviews on five planning decisions that were issued in error.

The council explained that on 19 August, officers in Mid Kent Planning Support team were testing a solution for issues with the software behind the public access site.

During the test, an error saw “dummy” decision notices published on five “randomly” selected Swale applications on the live system.

Once the error had been discovered, the dummy decisions were removed from the site. However, legal advice given to the council confirmed that the decisions are legally binding and must be overturned before the correct decisions can be issued.

The judicial review process will be used to try to quash the decisions.

Roger Truelove and Mike Baldock, leader and deputy leader of the council, said they are angered and frustrated by the “administrative error by staff working in the Mid Kent shared planning service”.

“These errors will have to be rectified but this will cause totally unnecessary concern to applicants.

“This is not the first serious problem following the transfer of our planning administration to Mid Kent shared services.

“We will wait for the outcome of a proper investigation and then consider our appropriate response as a council.”

In addition to the incorrect decisions, some of the dummy text used during testing of the software that was “not appropriate for publication, including derogatory comments about the quality of the applications”. The council explained that the language was used by a junior office who had no knowledge of any of the applications and believed they were working solely in a test environment and that the comments would not be published.

Kent Online reports speaking to one of the applicants who is bidding to keep Happy Pants animal sanctuary to stay on its site in Bobbing, near Sittingbourne. The charity's proposal was described as “whack”.

An investigation has begun into what happened to “ensure that lessons are learned and any necessary action in relation to the conduct of officers involved is taken”.

The council added that it would continue to liaise with the applicants as the matter progresses.

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