A Somerset council’s most senior planning officer has resigned after 18 years.

Simon Fox had worked for South Somerset District Council since 2002, most recently as its lead specialist for planning matters.

Mr Fox said he was “having to referee a game nobody else seems to know the rules to” and was leaving the council to “renew and continue my love of this great profession”.

The council has thanked Mr Fox for his service and said there would be no disruption to planning decisions while his replacement is recruited.

Mr Fox announced his departure in an internal email to staff, which was leaked to the press.

He said: “Since joining the council as a modern apprentice in 2002 I have dedicated myself to the world of planning in South Somerset. Some of you have been on that journey with me from the start.

“I have tried to do the best for our communities within the parameters of national and local policy, and respecting local wishes and yours of course. Not an easy circle to square off.

“Officers are in the unenviable position of having to referee a game nobody else seems to know the rules to.”

Mr Fox declined to state whether his departure had been prompted by any one decision by the council.

He said he had “a significant amount of work to look back on proudly… hundreds of dwellings built and homes created, a couple of supermarkets consented, miles of cycleways secured, and countless businesses and communities supported.”

He also urged councillors to continue embracing the transformation programme, which is designed to deliver council services in a more efficient, cost-effective manner.

The council voted in July 2019 to spend more than £700,000 extra on temporary staff up to 2021 to ensure “under pressure” services can cope, including its planning department.

Mr Fox said: “I do hope members continue to embrace the continued process changes which are desperately needed in order for the service to function properly in the future.

“Your officers desperately need to see change, and without officers you have no service.

“It was a great honour to work for the council and to be its chief planner, something I could only have dreamt about when I first joined, but now I look to pastures new to renew and continue my love of this great profession.”

Mr Fox’s departure comes in the middle of a review of the council’s Local Plan, determining how many homes will be built and in which locations over the next two decades.

The council has thanked Mr Fox for his many years of service and said there would be no disruption to planning decisions as a result.

A spokesman said: “We can confirm that Simon Fox, lead specialist for planning, has left South Somerset District Council after 18 years of dedicated service.

“Simon has shown great dedication to South Somerset and upholding the planning policies and standards and we really wish him well for the future.

“Recruitment for this role will commence immediately and interim arrangements are being put in place to ensure the planning process can continue without disruption in South Somerset.

“In the meantime our capable and professional planning team handles thousands of applications every year, and will continue to deliver excellent service to the communities of South Somerset.”