Bury St Edmunds: Emergency powers used to stop delays

Gordon Cox

Gordon Cox - Credit: Archant

He claims he was just doing his job.

But council leaders at St Edmundsbury Borough Council got so concerned by the cost of delays caused by councillor Gordon Cox they used emergency powers to change the constitution and stop it from happening again.

Mr Cox, who represents Haverhill East, called in 18 planning applications for consideration to the council’s development committee – meaning officers had to draft lengthy reports and applicants were forced to wait.

According to a report by Joy Bowes, head of legal and democratic services, none of the applications called in were in Mr Cox’s ward and “in some cases he has given no reason for his action.”

She added: “For applicants this means that decisions which would otherwise have been made by officers are delayed until after the committee meeting. An affected applicant has complained formally about the delay this will cause to his application.”

In response, council chief executive Ian Gallin used urgency powers to make an interim amendment to the constitution to “remove the threat of unjustified delay”. The move means that councillors can now only call in applications in their own wards.

Yesterday Mr Cox said he had “no problem whatsoever” with the constitution change but insisted he had his reasons for all of his applications.

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He added: “They are all just planning reasons that have somehow not been picked up on, including buildings that might have asbestos in them.”

The possibility of a permanent change to the constitution will be debated by councillors next month.