the same time as the chancellor is rattling his sword about speeding up planning applications, it turns out George Osborne’s local council is facing an investigation into a planning row which is set to cost local council tax payers £800,000.
Local Government Chronicle reports (£) Cheshire East council – which covers Osborne’s Tatton seat – is facing a probe over a waste processing station which appears to have skirted planning approval:
The investigation, to be carried out by public sector lawyer Malcolm Iley, will look into allegations relating to “procurement, public finance and planning and related governance matters”, according to a statement sent on Mr Iley’s behalf.
The statement says his inquiry will focus on “allegations in respect of three senior officers”.
Last week the Macclesfield Express (which broke the story) found:
“Work on the proposed new facility at Lyme Green… began three weeks before planning permission was even applied for, it has been confirmed.”
“…EU competition rules and numerous council procedures were broken and the public may have been misled.”
The case appears to be a classic one of ‘more haste, less speed’. With his knee-jerk calls for relaxing planning rules to speed up development, the chancellor would do well to see what is going on in his own backyard first.
Of course the chancellor is something of a recent convert to the idea of using the planning system to boost growth. Back in April he abolished the Infrastructure Planning Commission, set up under Gordon Brown to… speed-up decisions on major infrastructure projects to boost growth.
And if he wanted ambitious house-building targets, then perhaps he should reinstate the regional spatial strategies he abolished two years ago, which has effectively handed a veto to local councils to avoid having to build enough homes in their boroughs.
Still, better a late convert.