Controversial reviewer of giant Milton Keynes warehouse gets more time to finish the job

A divided committee has again voted to give an under-fire planning consultant the chance to finish his heavily criticised review into how the Blakelands warehouse was allowed to double in height.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 1:48 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 1:54 pm

Consultant Marc Dorfman has told Milton Keynes Council that he now aims to complete during the week of May 10, after the local elections and 18 missed deadlines.

The Blakelands Residents Association wants Dorfman dumped in favour of a much more detailed investigation.

Calling the Dorfman review an “unmitigated disaster” resident Andrew Herman questioned whether planning permission was legally granted in 2017.

Mr Dorfman has already found the decision was “bona fide and proper”.

But Mr Herman said: “Bona fide means in good faith. The question that should be answered is one of simple law.

“He doesn’t answer the question if the decision is lawful. He skips it.

“You have never had a report stating that the decision to grant planning permission for that warehouse was lawful.”

A resident's drone image of the giant warehouse

Ian Kirby, an independent local government auditor, told the meeting he was only able to “partially agree” with Mr Dorfman’s three main preliminary findings.

One of those is that planning permission was “bona fide and proper”.

Mr Kirby, of c.co, said the original planning decision was not in the scope of his review but the logical progression of his preliminary findings is.

And he said Mr Dorfman had not presented his evidence for making those decisions to an audit standard.

Calling it a work in progress Mr Kirby said that he “can’t see how he documented and produced conclusions.”

The committee was divided on whether to drop the Dorfman report or to carry on.

Cllr Robin Bradburn (Lib Dem, Bradwell) stepped off the committee over an allegation that an email exchange to the Local Government Association (LGA) proved he had already made up his mind.

The email, seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, contained the line “the call for a further external report I see as unnecessary if we can avail ourselves of an expert examination of this report.”

Cllr Bradburn said he was exploring options but stood down from Monday’s meeting, saying that Mr Herman had attacked him without knowing the full facts.

Cllr John Bint (Cons, Broughton) said the committee could conclude that the council had shown “institutional bias” in favour of the applicant.

And he said they could reach the conclusion that “officers set out to mislead the committee”.

“The decision taken was unsound, defective, unjust and unlawful.”

But Cllr Martin Petchey (Lab, Stantonbury) said Cllr Bint had dreamt up “vague allegations”.

He said Mr Dorfman is an excellent planner who didn’t have the discipline and organise his work.

The committee voted to keep going with the Dorfman review.

Mr Dorfman says he is carrying out a “complimentary review” to double check the developer’s technical findings on light and shadow.

The developer’s findings were supported by planning officers who recommended that the development control committee should approve the application.