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Fight launched over Malmesbury store
Residents in Malmesbury are seeking damages against Wiltshire Council for alleged ‘maladministration’ over the development of Waitrose.
Home owners living in Avon Mills are preparing to make an official complaint to the Local Government Ombudsmen, having produced an extensive document looking at the way Wiltshire Council planning officers dealt with the application for the supermarket.
Through Freedom of Information requests related to the application process, they feel they have gained sufficient evidence to argue that officers were biased in favour of the applicant, overlooking advice from their specialist advisors.
They argue that the officers failed in their duty to protect the 33 households in Avon Mills, including three Grade II listed buildings.
Homeowner Caroline Moore, who wrote the report that will form the basis of their evidence, said: “We believe that we and fellow residents of the Avon Mills site will suffer substantial material loss because of the conduct of the Wiltshire Council planning officers. We plan to ask the Local Government Ombudsmen to rule in our favour, impose appropriate sanctions and award us damages that reflect the adverse effect on our residential amenity arising from noise, disturbance, loss of privacy, loss of views, and detriment to the setting of the Avon Mills Grade II listed buildings.
“We also seek compensation for the time we have invested in pursuing this matter and defending our interests.”
The report highlights various conversations between the applicant’s planning director Paul Brailsford and Wiltshire Council planning officers.
In the report, Ms Moore, who owns a flat in Avon Mills with her brother, argues that more weight was given to the applicant’s specialist advisor rather than to the objections from English Heritage and the council’s own in-house specialist advisers who, the report states, ‘each provided detailed and strenuous objections to the Avon Mills field application’.
In the report, Ms Moore also highlights the delays she faced in getting information through the Freedom of Information procedure.
Regulations state that a response to an information request should be provided within 20 working days, but she claims it took 35 working days for a response, followed by a resubmission, which took another 45 working days to respond to – a total of nearly four months.
She had hoped to use the information from the request as evidence against the plan, before it was decided.
So far nine of the 33 householders have signed in support of the document, while many others were approached with details of the report on Tuesday this week.
Wiltshire Council voted in favour of the Waitrose application on August 29. Construction work is expected to begin in late 2013.
A council spokesman said: “We have received the complaint and we are looking in to it.”
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