Council cleared of maladministration charge over 350-home development approval
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Development, Housing
The Local Government Ombudsman has exonerated Stockton Council of any wrongdoing in approving plans to build up to 350 houses on farmland in Yarm.
The council’s Planning Committee granted outline planning permission – subject to the completion of a legal agreement and planning conditions – for the development at Morley Carr Farm in August last year.
However, the Morley Carr Farm Action Group objected to the decision and made a complaint through the council’s corporate complaints procedure.
The action led to the council’s actions being deemed reasonable, so the Group then escalated the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman for further investigation.
The Ombudsman has now found “no evidence of maladministration in the council’s acceptance or determination of the application”.
In her final decision report, Ombudsman investigator Rhona McMeekin, said: “I appreciate how controversial this application has been and how unpopular the decision. However, I can see no evidence of maladministration in the way the decision was taken.”
Ms McMeekin also acknowledged the government’s requirement for councils to demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing land and the recently introduced presumption in favour of sustainable development as “material considerations to which the council had to give weight”.
In October last year, communities secretary Eric Pickles, refused a request to stop the development, citing his opinion that they did not “conflict with national policies on important matters”.
Councillor Bob Cook, Leader of Stockton Council, said: “We recognise the strength of feeling by the Morley Carr Farm Action Group but the Ombudsman’s decision offers further evidence that all material planning considerations were thoroughly looked at before the decision was made.”