And finally… out of whack



A junior council worker who rejected and approved real planning applications, adding sarcastic comments in the process, in the belief they were testing a dummy website has learned that the decisions are now legally binding.

One applicant, a charity boss at an animal sanctuary, was told by Swale Borough Council her plans were turned down because “Your proposal is whack”, with a second comment adding, “No mate, proper whack”.

Another, seeking to change a butchers to a hot food takeaway with a delivery service, was refused with the comments “just dont” and “no”.

Two applications to demolish separate pubs were both approved, with the responses “incy wincy spider” and “why am I doing this am I the chosen one”.

The Kent authority blamed a “testing error” which “published dummy decision notices on five randomly selected Swale applications on the live system”.

It added: “After being alerted to the mistake, the dummy decisions were removed from the site, but legal advice has subsequently confirmed they are legally binding and must be overturned before the correct decisions are made.”

The leader and deputy leader of Swale Borough Council said they are angered and frustrated that an administrative error by staff working in the Mid Kent shared planning service has led to the issuing of false planning decision notices.

Cllr Roger Truelove and Councillor Mike Baldock, said: “These errors will have to be rectified but this will cause totally unnecessary concern to applicants.

“This is not the first serious problem following the transfer of our planning administration to Mid Kent shared services.

“We will wait for the outcome of a proper investigation and then consider our appropriate response as a council.”

A statement from the local authority added: “In addition to the incorrect decisions, some of the dummy text used to test the software was not appropriate for publication, including derogatory comments about the quality of the applications.

“This language was used by a junior officer with no knowledge of any of the applications, who believed they were working solely in a test environment and that the comments would never be published.”

An investigation is underway to understand what happened and may result in action against the officers involved.