Council leader ‘extremely frustrated’ by the mistake
The error occurred in mid-August when officers from Mid Kent Planning Support, which runs the service for Swale Borough Council, ran a dummy trial to fix a software issue.
During this process, five decision notices were inadvertently sent to applicants, including Amey Jones, the founder of the Happy Pants animal ranch.
She was told that her plea to keep her charity at its site in Bobbing, near Sittingbourne, had been rejected. By way of explanation, the council’s official comments said “your proposal is whack” and “no mate, proper whack”.
Commenting on the incident, Ms Jones told Kent Online earlier this week: “Obviously the comments are quite laughable, but if I had gone on there this morning before I saw the email from Swale council about the error I think I would have had a heart attack – I would have been properly panicking; the future of the ranch depends on this decision.”
She added that the blunder will delay the result of her application, which was supposed to be considered this month. “At this rate, we are probably not going to know by Christmas. It’s just awful not knowing,” she said.
Other requests were met with similarly sarcastic responses, with a pub in Sittingbourne given the green light for partial demolition with the words “incy, wincy, spider”.
In a statement, council leader Roger Truelove apologised to the people who were affected, saying he was “extremely frustrated” by the event. An investigation into the incident has been launched.
To make matters worse, the council cannot easily cancel the bogus planning decisions.
“Although the notice of decision has been produced in this bizarre way, the decisions can only be overturned by our applying for a judicial review of these decisions. We have already initiated this process,” Mr Truelove explained.
It is understood that fixing the decision will cost thousands of pounds.