A Special Audit Committee on MK Council have unanimously agreed on how to move forward with the 2-year investigation into how a giant “oppressive” warehouse in Blakelands was given planning permission.
The Special Audit Committee was organised following the resignation of lead author, Marc Dorfman, on 21 June.
The long-overdue review should have been published in mid-2019 but was marred in controversy and postponements that saw the investigation and MK Council lose credibility and the confidence of Blakelands residents.
These same residents took their chance to speak up about the saga at the Special Audit Committee. Local resident, Richard Schofield, said: “We must find out what happened, so it doesn’t happen again.”
Catherine Wright, also a resident, said: “By everyone’s admission, this is the worst planning decision MK Council has ever made, surely you owe it to us to find out how this decision came to be made to avoid anyone, anywhere else, suffering the same fate. Please stop trying to sweep this under the carpet and commission a swift and thorough review.”
Members of the Audit Committee were tasked with deciding what form, scope and transparency the investigation would continue in.
Cllr Andrew Geary (Con, NP North & Hanslope) called on the committee to “make the bold decision to grasp the nettle and make the bold turn in a different direction” adding that this would “command the confidence and respect of residents and members of the public”.
Cllr Dan Gilbert (Con, Loughton & Shenley), quickly brought forward an amendment to the motion stating that “Yeomans Drive will go down as the greatest planning error in MK’s history, this is the last chance to ensure it is not also the greatest administrative error in MK Council’s history.” The amendment aimed to ensure the review was properly resourced and establishes independence and transparency over the process and the formation of the review.
Following discussions with members of the Audit Committee, the amendment proposed by the Conservative Cllr Dan Gilbert was passed.
Cllr Alex Walker, Leader of the Conservative Council Group, said:
“Yesterday we managed to stop the Council making the same mistakes again by finally securing for residents a fully independent inquiry.
“It is the only way to get to the bottom of the Blakelands warehouse saga and deliver the answers residents deserve.”
Cllr Scot Balazs, Cllr for Newport Pagnell South, the ward where Blakelands resides, added:
“Our job will now be to ensure what was decided by Cllrs is followed through and delivered.
“Conservative Councillors are clearing up the mess caused by a chaotic and incompetent MK Council.”
The Blakelands Residents Association released a statement:
“We are pleased that the audit committee have finally listened to the residents of Blakelands and unanimously agreed to commission a new review into the warehouse led by a leading legal professional.
We believe that the steps taken tonight will now ensure that a thorough and independent review will take place. It is important to us that we are able to learn the truth about what happened and what steps can be taken to prevent it from ever happening again.”