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Swale council seeks to quash five planning decisions that were issued in error

Published Tuesday 7 September, 2021
Last updated on Tuesday 7 September, 2021

On August 19, officers for Mid Kent Planning Support team were testing a solution for issues with the software behind the public access site. During this testing an error occurred, which published dummy decision notices on five randomly selected Swale applications on the live system.

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 say 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, say:

“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.”

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 exactly what happened to ensure that lessons are learned and any necessary action in relation to the conduct of officers involved is taken.

The quickest legal way to deal with the issue is to use the judicial review process to have the decisions quashed through a judicial review. This is not uncommon and, if uncontested, could be complete in two to three months.

We have notified each of the applicants of the error and will continue to liaise with them as the matter progresses.