Leader welcomes audit findings on planning application

23 Nov 2016

The leader of Northumberland County Council has welcomed independent audit findings into unfounded allegations about a Morpeth planning application.
 
Grant Davey also expressed concern that the untrue claims had the potential to ‘bring the Authority and individual officers and elected members into serious disrepute’.
 
The audit was carried out after three letters of complaint were received by the Chief Executive around planning applications at land west of Lancaster Park in Morpeth.
 
An independent investigation into these matters found that due planning process was properly followed.

However, in their report to the council’s audit committee, to be considered next week, auditors state: “What has been unhelpful to a fair, balanced and proportionate understanding of events around this planning application are a number of unsubstantiated assertions within the letters of complaint, and in several Freedom of Information requests received by the Authority, regarding the same planning matter.  
 
The report goes on to say: “These claimed, implied or insinuated that senior officers and/or elected members of the Authority may have sought to improperly influence the development in question, or the planning process thereto.  Such allegations and insinuations have the potential to bring the Authority and individual officers and elected members into serious disrepute.”
 
Auditors stressed it was important to note that no evidence was found to substantiate these assertions, “which appear to be without foundation and instead based on hearsay, supposition and conjecture”.  
 
The report added: “The Strategic Planning Committee clearly considered the applications, listened to officers’ advice, but formed their own view on whether the application should be approved or refused.”

Councillor Davey said: “I welcome the report of this independent audit, which has thoroughly examined all the complaints and allegations made around this planning application.”
 
“It is very disappointing  when comments and insinuations are made against councillors and officers which are clearly untrue but have serious potential to bring this authority into disrepute.
 
“In the interests of transparency it is right the matter was fully investigated but there was never any doubt that this council acted properly throughout.”