South Ribble MP under fire from councillors after forgetting to seek planning permission for new office sign
South Ribble MP Katherine Fletcher has come under fire from local councillors after a large new sign appeared outside her constituency office in Leyland without planning permission.
Ms Fletcher's new sign at Leyland Conservative Club in Towngate raised the eyebrows of local councillors when it appeared at the weekend without the approval of planning officers.
South Ribble Borough Council said it is aware of the sign and has confirmed that no planning applications were submitted prior its installation.
Today, the Conservative MP admitted that her sign has been put up without permission, but said the paperwork will be submitted this week.
She said the "volume of work" she has been dealing with due to the pandemic had led to the "administrative oversight".
Ms Fletcher said: "My small office team and I have been in the heart of Leyland helping people in South Ribble throughout this awful COVID pandemic.
"It is important to me that the community know where I am so I can help them, and we’ve been forgetting to put a sign up for months due to the volume of work we’ve had.
"For example, in the last 12 months we’ve received 17,319 emails alone, and this has led us to putting a sign up without completing the correct forms.
"I thank the planning officer for giving us the opportunity to correct our administrative oversight, and we’ll be submitting the appropriate paperwork this week."
Councillor Bill Evans, cabinet member for planning said Ms Fletcher has been asked to submit a "retrospective application" to the planning department.
He said: "We are aware of the erected signage at the Conservative Club in Towngate. The sign requires Advertisement Consent and we are working with the owner to invite a retrospective application.
"Dependent on the outcome of said application we will determine whether or not any further action is required."
But South Ribble Council leader Paul Foster has suggested that the sign should be taken down until planning officers have had the opportunity to consider her application.
He added that he was 'baffled' by Ms Fletcher's explanation for not seeking planning permission due to her workload.
He said: "This is a bizarrely large sign which has appeared without any prior consultation with our planning officers.
"A number of residents have also raised it with us and we have assured them that Ms Fletcher is subject to the same planning laws as everyone else.
"There is an official planning process and it isn't simply a matter of forgetting to fill out a few forms and hoping to get these things signed off afterwards.
"Frankly, it is quite baffling that an MP would simply forget to follow the appropriate planning process before putting this sign up.
"It appears to be either complacency or arrogance and might lead to tax-payer money being wasted if the sign isn't approved by planning officers.
"I can assure everyone that this application, when received, will be looked at diligently along with every other we receive.
"It will either comply with regulations or will be unlawful. It would probably be helpful if it were removed in the interim, as clearly it doesn’t currently have any form of planning consent."
Labour councillor Matthew Tomlinson added that it is important that everyone - "no matter how important they may be" - follows the same regulations.
He said: "No one, however important they may be, is above the law. I'm glad that the MP has admitted she shouldn't have put this sign up without permission.
"Local planning laws are there for a reason. They protect us all from inappropriate developments causing a blight on the landscape.
"It's only right that the Council now ensures that the regulations are applied to the MP as they would to anyone else."