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Council forced to go down judicial review route after planning permissions issued in error during software testing

A blunder during software testing has led Swale Borough Council to issue five planning decisions which it must now overturn by judicial review.

One applicant was told their application was rejected as being “proper whack” and another granted permission to demolish a pub with the baffling comment “incy, wincy, spider”, Kent Online reported.

Officers for Mid Kent Planning - a shared service between Swale and Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells borough councils - were testing a solution for a software problem behind the public access site.

During this dummy decision notices on five randomly selected Swale applications on the live system were inadvertently published.

These were removed once discovered but the council’s legal advice said the erroneous ones were legally binding and must be overturned before the correct decisions are made.

Lawyers advised the most rapid solution would be to use judicial review to have the decisions quashed, which if uncontested could be completed in two to three months.

Leader Roger Truelove and deputy leader Mike Baldock said they were “angered and frustrated that an administrative error by staff working in the Mid Kent shared planning service has led to the issuing of false planning decision notices”.

The councillors added: “These errors will have to be rectified but this will cause totally unnecessary concern to applicants.

“This is not the first serious problem following the transfer of our planning administration to Mid Kent shared services.

“We will wait for the outcome of a proper investigation and then consider our appropriate response as a council.”

They said the derogatory language about the quality of some applications was used by a junior officer “who believed they were working solely in a test environment and that the comments would never be published”.

Mark Smulian