A COUNCIL boss was accused of putting pressure on officers to refuse a planning application for business units to remain at farm in his ward.

Tendring Council leader Neil Stock was accused of “unreasonable behaviour” over an application to allow business, industrial and storage units to remain at Mulleys Farm, in Bentley Road, Little Bromley.

The application for the former farm buildings was rejected by the council’s planning committee - against the officer recommendation - in October last year.

But applicant Mary Cooper appealed and Government planning inspector Nick Palmer has now agreed the development can remain.

Concerns were raised about traffic and noise, from a steel manufacturer which uses the site, but Mr Palmer said conditions could ensure acceptable limits and there was no proof it would attract more lorries.

But in an application for costs, which was rejected, it was alleged that Mr Stock’s behaviour “influenced the decision that was taken”.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

Site - Mulleys Farm, in Bentley Road, Little Bromley

It was claimed that he emailed senior officers to discuss the application and stated “the application would be refused at committee”.

The council’s monitoring officer said no e-mail was sent by the leader to her regarding the planning application and had any e-mails been sent to senior officers applying improper pressure, it should have been forwarded to her.

“No such referrals were made. She has seen one e-mail which gave no cause for concern. The Monitoring Officer considers that councillors acted properly and in accordance with the Code of Conduct.”

Mr Palmer said: “It is clearly the democratic role of the planning committee to take into account the views of local residents in coming to a decision which may require going against the officer’s recommendation. There was concern expressed by local residents about unauthorised development at the site, and non-compliance with planning conditions.

“Against this background it is not surprising the ward councillor contacted officers to resolve the situation.

“As the application had attracted significant objections it is also unsurprising that he called the application in for determination by the committee.”

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

Council leader - Neil Stock

He added: “I find that unreasonable behaviour resulting in unnecessary or wasted expense, as described in the Planning Practice Guidance, has not been demonstrated.”

Mr Stock said he was pleased the inspector recognised he did not act inappropriately.

He added: “I don’t have any personal axe to grind.

“But I am responsible for representing the views of residents in the ward, who are concerned about that particular application.

“To suggest my taking the case to planning committee was wrong or improper is a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of a local councillor.

“I’m disappointed that the unanimous decision of the planning committee has been overruled by the inspector.”