Review of giant warehouse planning fiasco in Milton Keynes controversially delayed again

A report into a controversial decision to allow a giant warehouse to be doubled in size behind residents’ homes has been postponed again.

Thursday, 30th January 2020, 10:03 am
Updated Thursday, 30th January 2020, 10:04 am

Now, a committee waiting for an independent review will be looking into “concerns” about whether council officers or members have been trying to persuade the reviewer to change his report.

Independent planning consultant Marc Dorfman was engaged by Milton Keynes Council last July to carry out a probe of how a warehouse in Blakelands was allowed to double in size to 18 metres.

At the time it was estimated that the review would take 20 days and the council’s audit committee was expected to be presented with the findings in October.

A drone's eye view of the Blakelands warehouse

But it never happened then, and now the council has announced another delay.

At Wednesday’s meeting, audit committee chairman Cllr Peter Cannon (Lib Dem, Shenley Brook End) said: “Marc Dorfman, the external person appointed to complete the independent Blakelands planning review, informed us and the council last night (Tuesday) that he would be unable to meet the deadline needed for the committee’s meeting on the 12th of February.

“We, therefore, have no alternative but to cancel the meeting on the 12th and rearrange it.

“The deputy chief executive will be discussing with Mr Dorfman a revised time-scale for the report.”

Cllr John Bint (Cons, Broughton), the chairman of the council’s development control committee, said some are concerned that the report may be being influenced by the council.

“There is a concern that Mr Dorfman might have submitted his thoughts to the council quite a long time ago,” he said. “And that what’s happening now might be a process of encouraging him to come to different views.”

Duncan Wilkinson, the council’s chief internal auditor, said: “I think I would need to have conversations with the deputy chief executive in order to seek appropriate assurances from Mr Dorfman that that is not the case.

“I am certainly unaware that he has shared a draft report or findings with anybody within the council.

“But I will need to take the issue away and ask deputy chief executive to progress that, provide suitable assurances to yourself and to the committee once she’s had a chance to speak to Mr Dorfman.”

Cllr Dan Gilbert (Cons, Loughton & Shenley) said: “I think this is a matter of huge importance to many, many residents who live in and around the Blakelands area and it is very frustrating that we are looking at another delay in this long-running process.”

He wants to see a “swift timeline” to get the report.

Cllr Cannon said: “We can’t pre-judge any reasons for the delay.”

And after the meeting, a spokesman for Blakelands Residents Association, said: “We are concerned about the lack of a detailed explanation as to why there is a further delay to the publication of the report.”