Ranting councillor 'abused planner'

A SENIOR councillor from Essex used “rude and abusive language” during a rant against planning officers, a standards committee will be told today.Peter Balbirnie, former chairman of Tendring District Council, went into a secure area of the authority's planning offices on September 20 last year and “verbally abused” Andrew Tyrell.

Elliot Furniss

A SENIOR councillor from Essex used “rude and abusive language” during a rant against planning officers, a standards committee will be told today.

Peter Balbirnie, former chairman of Tendring District Council, went into a secure area of the authority's planning offices on September 20 last year and “verbally abused” Andrew Tyrell.

Mr Tyrell, a planning official at the council for 15 years, claimed Mr Balbirnie failed to treat him with respect - an allegation that investigating officers accepted.


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Mr Balbirnie is set to be cleared of other allegations relating to the incident, including bringing the authority into disrepute, using his position to secure himself or another person an advantage, and compromising the impartiality of those who work for, or on behalf of, the authority.

Last night, Mr Balbirnie said he accepted the report, which will be put before the hearing sub-committee of the district council's Standards Committee at a hearing today.

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Mr Balbirnie, 64, said: “It was one of those things that happened - spur of the moment.

“We'll deal with it as it comes up. I apologised a day after and I apologised twice in writing.”

Mr Balbirnie was first elected to the council in 1980 and was chairman in 2007-8.

Acccording to council documents, he went to the offices in Weeley, near Clacton, with planning agent Phillip Harvey without an appointment to discuss an application when he “launched into a verbal assault”, according to Mr Tyrell, who no longer works for the council.

Mr Balbirnie entered the secure area when he allegedly told Mr Tyrell that the planning officers treated people “like it was all a game” and that the department was a “***ing joke”.

In a statement to the investigating officer, Mr Tyrell said: “I feel this behaviour is totally unacceptable from a member. It is obvious that he was performing in front of the agent to gain face and to belittle members of the planning department staff, particularly myself.”

Investigating officer Michael Gibson-Davies concluded in his report that Mr Balbirnie used rude and abusive language on the spur of the moment and when he was “highly irritated”.

In the agenda for today's meeting, he said: “I find that his comments were not premeditated or pre-planned and that they came out because 'things got rather heated'.

“It appears that he was on his way to visit the enforcement manager about another mater. I also find that the Respondent (Mr Balbirnie) probably did not properly appreciate just how insulting his comments were to the Complainant (Mr Tyrell).”

As part of his report, Mr Gibson-Davies recommended that the council adopt a new policy to ensure all visitors and councillors do not enter the secure areas of offices or call at individual officers' rooms without their prior agreement.

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