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Masthead Local Govt - Governance and Risk

Labour leader reports all 19 Tory councillors to monitoring officer in planning leak row

The Labour Leader of Basildon Council has reported all 19 members of the Conservative Group to the council’s monitoring officer amid claims of a leak to a journalist of planning committee documents.

Cllr Gavin Callaghan, chair of Basildon's policy and resources committee, tweeted that he was calling for “a full standards inquiry” into the leak, which related to the committee’s options for enforcement action over a site at Hovefields Avene in Wickford.

Cllr Callaghan said: “It is unacceptable, damaging to residents & should not of happened. We need answers & an investigation.”

He claimed to the Yellow Advertiser that "what they have done is basically shown the council’s hand to the opposition’s lawyers”.

However, the leader of the Conservatives Group, Cllr Phil Turner, told Local Government Lawyer that the move was "absolutely outrageous" and a move to deflect Cllr Callaghan's own failings in relation to planning enforcement.

He said Cllr Callaghan "should look closer to home" as to the source of the leak, adding that: "There has to be some evidence behind an accusation otherwise it makes a complete mockery of the democratic process."

At a meeting on 19 December the planning committee gave the green light to officers “to pursue all practical and lawful enforcement actions” in relation to what it says is unlawful development of a parcel of green belt land.

The owner of the land is seeking a judicial review of Basildon’s decision to decline to determine their application to permit the development of the land for six caravans.

The council said on 29 December that a Court of Appeal decision was awaited.

Cllr Adele Brown, chairman of Basildon’s Planning Committee, said: “While the planning breaches are clear to all, resolving them within the law as it stands is a complex matter. The council must act in a reasonable and proportionate manner. That’s why it is essential that the outcome of high court proceedings are known before decisions can be taken with the most up-to-date information at hand.”

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