‘The report was written objectively’

NO BIAS Ponderosa's eco retirement community was turned down.
NO BIAS Ponderosa's eco retirement community was turned down.

Kirklees Council’s planning department was investigated over claims officers and members had tried to push through a development at Ponderosa.

The internal investigation was carried out after the council received a complaint about how it conducted planning decisions.

A report into the investigation stated the complainant suggested Kirklees sometimes mixed up its role as a planning authority with its ambitions for development of the area, citing the retirement community at Ponderosa, which was eventually turned down by the secretary of state.

And the complainant said council officers and perhaps some members had tried to influence or control the process to help it go through.

The investigation found senior officers and members saw the wider benefits of the project, and the council’s link with Ponderosa owner Howard Cook created a perception the application may be influenced internally – but the council’s report for the development was written without influence.

Martin Dearnley, head of audit and risk, said: “There is some scope for the council to change its procedures for assessment and reporting, and for the formal consideration of applications by members, in order to promote an approach that reduces the risk of perception of none objective influence on the decision making process.”

Howard Cook said: “We have never done anything untoward. Our application was supported by Kirklees in many ways.

“We were advised by all to proceed to the secretary of state so it’s hard to swallow.

“The process cost us £1.2m in planning and legal costs. The vision was for the future of community projects and job creation. It’s a very sad story.”