RYEDALE District Council appreciates the opportunity to correct a misleading impression given by John Clark in his column in the Gazette & Herald of December 10 about the role of officers at Ryedale District Council.

The assertion that district council officers (plus paid consultants) watered down the “reasons for refusal” in the Gladman planning appeal in relation to proposed residential development at Westfields, Kirkbymoorside, or the general assertion that senior managers are abusing democracy, is not an accurate characterisation.

The comments show a lack of knowledge of the roles of planning officers and councillors in the decision-making process of local planning authorities and the procedures in place to maintain high standards of ethical conduct. They are ill-informed comments and readers of the Gazette & Herald deserve to know the facts.

The facts of the case are that it was the planning committee meeting on June 3 that resolved to modify the reasons for refusal in preparation for the Gladman planning appeal by reducing them from five to two. The public can see the minutes of the meeting on the district council’s website.

To properly defend the appeal it was essential to focus on the strongest reasons for refusal. It also reduced the council’s exposure to the risk of a costs award which Gladman applied for.

At the planning inquiry on October 28 and 29, Councillor John Clark and local residents had the opportunity to put their views to planning inspector Mr Nixon. Therefore the views of Coun Clark and other third parties will be taken into account. The decision letter for the appeal is expected by December 15.

Planning officers are required to act in accordance with the council’s Code of Conduct for officers and their own professional codes of conduct, primarily the Royal Town Planning Institute’s Code of Professional Conduct.

As a result, planning officers’ views, opinions and recommendations will be presented on the basis of their overriding obligation of professional independence, which may on occasion be at odds with the views, opinions or decisions of the committee or its members. Very often these opinions are based on their interpretations of national planning policy statements issued by the Secretary of State.

The role of councillors on the other hand is to make planning decisions on the merits of the case having regard to all material planning considerations. Officers advise and members decide.

Councillor John Windress, chairman of Ryedale District Council planning committee