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MP says he is now starting to share community’s “suspicion” over Breckland’s contract with Capita

PUBLISHED: 09:33 20 June 2017

George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk. Pic: Conservative Party.

George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk. Pic: Conservative Party.

Conservative Party

Breckland Council has invited George Freeman to discuss its partnership with Capita, which runs its building control process, in more detail after the Mid Norfolk MP added his “deep concerns” about the authority’s handling of recent planning applications.

Protestors against a scheme of 50 homes in Mattishall protest with placards outside Breckland Council offices.Protestors against a scheme of 50 homes in Mattishall protest with placards outside Breckland Council offices.

As we reported in this newspaper last week district councillor Paul Claussen called for Capita’s contract to be terminated after it recommended a controversial application in Mattishall for approval.

Following that planning meeting Mr Freeman has sent a letter to Mike Brennan, head of development management at Breckland, saying serious questions were now being raised about the “probity of the process and management by Capita”.

His letter added: “There is widespread suspicion in the community - which on the basis of evidence I am now starting to share - that the contract Breckland has entered into to outsource its planning management to Capita - a company which also acts for development applicants - is inappropriate, compromises the integrity of the process, as well as the public trust and confidence in the planning system.”

He called Breckland’s decision to recommend approval for the 50-home scheme by Gladman Developments on Dereham Road in Mattishall “bizarre”, as its ‘preferred site’ status in the emerging Local Plan was still under review, and has asked for a meeting with Mattishall councillors and Breckland planning officers to get to the bottom of what happened.

But a spokesman for Breckland said they were “confident” in their planning team while recognising that some residents had been concerned about potential development in Mattishall.

He said: “Having planning application and planning policy processes running concurrently is by no means unique to Breckland.

“We are confident that our planning team has managed these complex processes as transparently as possible.

“However, having been recently contacted about this situation by George Freeman MP, we have offered to meet with him to discuss the recent Mattishall application, our progress in drafting the Local Plan, and our partnership with Capita in more detail.”

MORE: Angry exchanges as planning officers recommend Mattishall housing scheme for approval

MORE: Latest on Local Plan sites

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