Councillor Peter Marland
Leader of the Council and Labour Group
Milton Keynes Council
5 th October 2020
Dear Cllr Marland,
I am writing to you directly to request you deliver an urgent statement at the next Delegated Decision meeting (6th October) on the Blakelands warehouse development and the wider issues in the Council’s planning function.
The BBC Look East piece broadcast last week was deeply concerning and reaffirms all of the fears my group and I hold, which earlier in the summer compelled me, on behalf of my group, to join with our local MPs in calling for the Government to investigate the Council’s planning performance.
The Dorfman report has lost almost all of its credibility due to the severe delay and alleged officer interference. Regardless of the outcome of the allegation, it is clear that the value of the independent investigation has been severely damaged. The idea the exercise will reinstate public confidence in our planning department has evaporated. We find it remarkable the Council built in no terms of reference to ensure the report was delivered in a timely fashion, given the seriousness of the situation. Blakelands residents have once again been severely let down.
It would now seem appropriate that external auditors are considered, to carry out a review.
On the matter of the wider planning team, comments by former MK Council planning officer Sharon Bayton are painful and affirmed my long-held view that the Council has not recognised the seriousness of the Blakelands application and have not implemented any meaningful improvements. “It’s all hush, hush, we don’t talk about that, we don’t admit that we made the biggest error in Milton Keynes planning history.” This quote alone has stolen the faith we had in the process of the current work of the ‘improvement board.’ Admitting failure is essential to improvement. This all highlights a fundamental lack of leadership and management from senior officers, and from the administration.
At a time when you are pursuing accelerated housing growth, forcing through projects such as the bridge over the M1, which requires an immense level of trust and confidence from existing residents of Milton Keynes, the Council under your leadership is failing. There is an endless list of planning failures that have occurred since and prior to Blakelands that show a failing function within the Council you lead. Yet, you have been silent
Both as Leader of the Council and as the portfolio holder of planning, it is time to show leadership. You have a responsibility to uphold the Council’s reputation, a reputation that is quickly collapsing.
There needs to be a fundamental change in approach from yourself, the Chief Executive and the Director responsible for planning. That needs to happen immediately, and I’d ask you outline the steps you propose to take in your urgent statement.
Cllr Alex Walker
Leader of the Conservative Group