Sunday, 22 September 2019

Council cleared in planning dispute

Council cleared in planning dispute

COUNCILLORS and their officers have been cleared of wrongdoing after residents complained about planning enforcement action against a garden nursery.

Wokingham Borough Council took enforcement action against Hare Hatch Sheeplands for breaching the green belt and extending a cafe and play area unlawfully.

Residents claimed the council told owner Rob Scott Scott to withdraw an appeal against the enforcement notice.

However, an independent investigation carried out by Richard Lingard cleared the council of maladministration and unprofessional conduct.

His report concludes: “The council did not, either through its elected members or its officers, induce Mr Scott (either by intentional design or default) to act to his detriment by withdrawing his appeal against an enforcement notice.”

Councillor Wayne Smith, executive member for planning and enforcement, said: “There have been legal ups and downs during this long-running dispute over Hare Hatch Sheeplands’ attempt at unauthorised development but our overall objective has always been to protect the green belt, which we have now secured.

“We commissioned an independent investigation because we know some residents feel we have been heavy-handed at times but I’m delighted staff and councillors have been cleared of the serious allegations.

“There were some training needs identified and we’re already acting on them, but it’s clear from the report that the council acted in good faith to resolve these difficult issues in the best interests of the whole borough.”

Last year, Mr Scott was awarded £68,000 from the council following its failed attempt to prosecute him after the Appeal Court ruled that he had no case to answer.

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