Council hit with costs after ‘unreasonable’ behaviour

Land off Hoyles Lane in Lea, Preston, where construction work has started
Land off Hoyles Lane in Lea, Preston, where construction work has started
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Town Hall chiefs are facing a hefty bill after an appeal for costs against them was allowed.

An inspector found Preston Council had acted “unreasonably” in refusing an application to alter planning conditions attached to a new housing development.

CEG Land Promotions Ltd had applied to change conditions attached to approved plans for up to 350 homes north of Hoyles Lane, Lea, and east of Sidgreaves Lane, relating to access to the site.

The plans were initially turned down, against officers’ advice, and an appeal was lodged against the decision, but planning permission was later granted to a duplicate application. The appeal was ultimately withdrawn, but the council has been ordered to pay costs relating to the appeal proceedings.

The costs are yet to be determined, but a council spokesman said they were likely to be “not insignificant”, and would need to be found from within existing council budgets.

A report to the planning committee said: “The inspector stated that the council’s change of stance by granting planning permission on the duplicate application, following the submission of the appeal, clearly resulted in the cancellation of an arranged inquiry and the withdrawal of the appeal.

“The re-submitted planning application was for the same proposal as the appeal application and the inspector noted that there was no evidence of any material change in circumstances following refusal of the appeal application to account for the council’s decision to take a different view regarding the merits of the proposal.”

It said the inspector considered the council “acted unreasonably in refusing planning permission at the outset.

“The need for the appeal, and associated expense, could in his opinion therefore have been avoided.”

Principal planning officer Natalie Beardsworth said: “Ultimately they did withdraw the appeal, but they still made the application for costs and that was successful, because of the change in position the council took.” She said costs would include those of planning consultants, highways consultants and barristers, but said the cost to the council could have been “at least double”, had there been a full public inquiry.