Council probes planning application allegations over new homes

Bustards' Lane, Walpole St Peter where the planning application for the new homes was approved. Phot

Bustards' Lane, Walpole St Peter where the planning application for the new homes was approved. Photo: Google Maps - Credit: Archant

A council is investigating claims that a parish councillor failed to declare an interest in a planning application which was approved by one of his wife's colleagues.

Walpole St Peter. Photo: Walpole parish council

Walpole St Peter. Photo: Walpole parish council - Credit: Walpole parish council

King's Lynn and West Norfolk Council approved an application in September last year to build two new homes on land at Bustards' Lane in Walpole St Peter.

However, they did not know at the time that council planning officer, Kate Lawty and husband David Lawty, a Walpole parish councillor, had an interest in the land which the houses were built on.

In May 2018 the land was used by the owner to secure a debt which they owe to the Lawtys.

According to documents at Companies House the Lawtys "charge" on the land is still outstanding.

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In June 2018 at a parish council meeting, councillors supported the application.

But the meeting's minutes show that Mr Lawty, who was present, did not declare a conflict of interest in the application.

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Three months after the parish council supported the application; it was approved by one of Mrs Lawty's colleagues in West Norfolk council's planning department.

Officers at the council can approve planning applications themselves but larger applications have to be debated in public by councillors at planning committees.

Council documents state that applications should also go before the planning committee, and not be approved by officers, when they involve a council employee or their partner.

A council spokesman said they were not aware of the matter until approached by this newspaper.

They said they took such allegations "very seriously".

"We are launching an investigation into the matter using our proper procedures and will not be able to comment further until the investigation has been concluded," they added.

Mrs Lawty said she would not comment while an investigation was underway. Mr Lawty also declined to comment.

The landowner had previously tried to build two new homes at the site in 2016 but the application was rejected because the council said it would be an "overdevelopment" of the plot and overshadow neighbouring property.

The plans, which were approved in September 2018, were revised.

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