No-confidence petition by Milton Keynes residents wants new review into council planning department

A petition signed by around 200 people is calling on the council to launch a new review into the circumstances under which a warehouse was allowed to double in height.
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Blakelands Residents Association believes a review being finalised now is more about improving the council’s planning department than getting to the truth about how the warehouse was granted planning permission to grow to 18m tall.

The Conservative opposition on the council has added its voice to calls for a new external review and wants the council leader to make a statement at a meeting tomorrow (Tuesday).

“It is deeply regrettable that we are no longer able to support or have any confidence in the ongoing external review that was commissioned in March 2019 and has been carried out by Marc Dorfman since July 2019,” says the petition on the Change.org website.

Blakelands warehouse from the airBlakelands warehouse from the air
Blakelands warehouse from the air

“We do not believe our concerns have been adequately investigated and we have absolutely no confidence that our many questions will be satisfactorily answered in Mr Dorfman’s report.”

A spokesperson for Blakelands Residents Association said they don’t doubt Mr Dorfman’s skills or abilities about planning consultancy.

“But investigating why things happened, why people covered things up, why emails and documents have been intentionally deleted, that’s a different skill set and more complex.”

From what they know about who has been interviewed, and more importantly who has not been approached, the residents believe the much delayed report will concentrate on how to improve the way the council works.

The petition reads: “We welcome some of the work that Mr Dorfman has been doing and we do not doubt his abilities and skills as a planning consultant.

“However, the repeated unexplained delays and subsequent conversations we have had with Mr Dorfman have led us to the rational conclusion that his work is very much being treated as a business improvement exercise for the council’s planning service.”

The move comes days after the chief executive of Milton Keynes Council launched an internal probe into residents’ allegations that a senior officer has tried to interfere with Mr Dorfman’s investigation.

Mr Dorfman has defended his independence and in a letter that he asked to be widely circulated.

The residents say it would be appropriate for this and other matters to be investigated by “external auditors”.

A spokesman for the council said: “An independent review of this planning decision is underway and nearing completion.

“The audit committee of the council will consider and respond to the recommendations made following the completion of the review.”

Milton Keynes Conservatives have added their voices to calls for an external review.

Group leader Cllr Alex Walker (Stantonbury), said: “The idea the Dorfman review will reinstate public confidence in our planning department has evaporated.”

Cllr Walker attacked the Labour leadership of the council, adding: “This all highlights a fundamental lack of leadership and management from senior officers, and from the administration.”

Cllr Marland said Cllr Walker’s actions indicate a “desire for a headline over all else, regardless of what the facts may establish.”