Investigation call as Ben Burgess decision loss costs council £36,000

Norwich-based farm machinery firm Ben Burgess says its proposed new headquarters at Swainsthorpe is

An investigation should be held into how Norfolk County Council's decision making over whether or not to object to Ben Burgess's proposed new headquarters. - Credit: Ben Burgess

The High Court ruling that Norfolk County Council acted unlawfully when it made a decision relating to a farm machinery company's move has cost County Hall more than £36,000.

And it has prompted calls for an investigation into the circumstances which led to the council's cabinet deciding economic benefits overruled highways concerns over Ben Burgess's mooted switch to Swainsthorpe.

The farm machinery firm wants to move from Norwich to a new two-storey headquarters by the A140 in Swainsthorpe - with South Norfolk Council to decide whether or not to grant permission.

County Hall highways officers initially said they would recommend the council should object, because the new junction on the A140 to serve the building would be against council policy.

In September, the Conservative cabinet agreed not to object, saying the economic impact outweighed the highways concerns.

Swainsthorpe Parish Council and the Saving Swainsthorpe group sought a judicial review hearing and a High Court judge last week ruled it had been unlawful for the cabinet to respond on economic grounds.

The county council confirmed it will pay £28,000 to Swainsthorpe Parish Council for its legal costs and had spent £8,210 in its failed attempt to defend the case.

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And there are calls for an investigation into the process which led to the cabinet decision.

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at County Hall, said: "Clearly there was something wrong with the decision-making process here and the advice which was given."

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Steffan Aquarone, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: "The county council cannot be marking its own homework on this, so I think there does need to be an independent, third party review."

Green Party candidate and former city and county councillor Andrew Boswell reiterated his call from last year for an investigation.

But Conservative council leader Andrew Proctor said the judicial review had been an inquiry into the process, so there was no need for a further investigation.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

He said: "Cabinet made a decision which has been quashed by the judicial review ruling, which dealt with the process and procedures on that decision. The council has accepted that ruling."

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