Mayor defends his role in controversial Milton Keynes giant warehouse planning decision
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Cllr Andrew Geary (Cons, Newport Pagnell North & Hanslope) is now borough mayor but in 2017 he was chairing the fateful development control committee (DCC) that narrowly approved the controversial 18 metre high replacement warehouse in Yeomans Drive.
In preliminary findings consultant Marc Dorfman said he was a “little surprised the scheme was so vehemently supported by the chair who perhaps should have just let the vote roll out.”
At a special meeting of MK Council’s audit committee on Tuesday Mr Dorfman added: “He seemed to me to be over-interventionist.”
He added that he wondered whether Cllr Geary’s interventions influenced the committee.
Cllr Geary said: “I have to say yes, I was a fairly strong chair and I lead fairly strongly. I don’t believe that I led this meeting any more strongly or any differently to how I’d led the others.”
During the debate on May 11, 2017, Cllr Geary had reluctantly moved a motion to approve the scheme and then rejected an attempt to propose rejection.
Cllr Geary said that is the way that DCC has “always conducted its business and still does”. If the first motion was defeated, another motion would then have been considered, but it wasn’t.
Mr Dorfman concluded the committee had all the information it needed and was not misled.
But he admitted that he did not have the expertise to double check evidence provided by council experts in sunlight, lighting, and sound.
On issues of a change of planning officer, the loss of 14 conditions on a decision notice, and emails being deleted he concluded that this was “extraordinary cock up and significant incompetence.”
But he said the committee could have refused the “finely balanced” application.
But Cllr John Bint (Cons, Broughton) said that there was an “accumulation of very odd things happening” and collectively “this amounts to DCC being misled seriously in multiple aspects.
The committee was left to decide what to do next.
Conservative members echoed a residents’ called for a line to be drawn under Dorfman and a new external auditor brought in.
But Labour and Lib Dem members defeated the Tory motion by six votes to three. They backed a move to get an expert to carry out a review of the review.
Mr Dorfman said police were waiting for his full report as a part of their investigations.
Conservative leader Cllr Alex Walker (Stantonbury) slammed the decision and said the council has tied itself to a report that has been pulled apart.
But council leader Cllr Pete Marland (Lab, Wolverton) said he thought the committee was correct to ask Mr Dorfman to finish.
But he added Mr Dorfman has concluded that “at very best some of the processes and actions of some officers was grossly incompetent,” meaning there are serious questions still to answer.