17.06.2021

If you think your Local Planning Authority has acted unreasonably, get in touch with our professional team at Parker Planning Services today. We can give you free impartial advice on your planning issues, including appeals and costs orders, and identify any routes to achieving your planning consent. Here is a recent relevant landmark case…

Stansted Airport to reclaim expansion appeal costs from district council in excess of £1 million.

The planning world has been rocked by the news that a district council is likely to face a bill more than £1 million following an award of full costs by a panel of independent Planning Inspectors……

What happened?    Uttlesford District Council had resolved to grant permission to Stansted Airport for an expansion to the number of passengers per annum permitted to fly – from 38 million ppa. to 43 million ppa. – in November 2018.   However, in May 2019 a local political party – Residents for Uttlesford, Essex – gained control of the council in the local elections. They referred the decision back to the planning committee and, against the advice of professional officers and the council’s legal team, refused consent.

With no material changes in policy or circumstances that could justify a different decision in 2020 to that in 2018, the Authority refused the planning application on four grounds and Manchester Airports Group – who own and operate Stansted – appealed the decision to a public inquiry held over 30 days between January and March 2021.

In their appeal decision issued on 26th May 2021, the panel of three highly experienced Planning Inspectors, concluded:

“Overall, the balance falls overwhelmingly in favour of the grant of planning permission. Whilst there would be a limited degree of harm arising in respect of air quality and carbon emissions, these matters are far outweighed by the benefits of the proposal and do not come close to indicating a decision other than in accordance with the development plan. No other material considerations have been identified that would materially alter this balance.      

Crucially, the panel of Planning Inspectors found that the Authority had acted unreasonably, and in a scathing decision letter on costs, also issued on 26th May, found that:

Having identified significant policy support for the development, any new concerns would have needed to be significant and have some prospect of tipping the favourable planning balance.

The panel of planning inspectors further noted that:

“The reasons for refusal were unquestionably vague and generalised, suggesting that the appellant had failed to demonstrate the effects on aircraft noise and air quality despite the extensive evidence presented and accepted on these topics.

Ultimately, the issues relied upon at appeal, some of which had been discussed during the committee, could not reasonably have been expected to materially alter the favourable planning balance. Indeed, the Council’s own appeal evidence was that the planning balance was favourable, such that planning permission should be granted.”

The inspectors also condemned the behaviour of the council during the inquiry itself, finding that:

“Attempts to substantiate these reasons for refusal during the appeal were not convincing… …The Council nevertheless maintained its case and presented evidence relating to all four refusal reasons.”

The council were told that they could have dealt with many of the concerns raised by Councillors via conditions or planning obligations, which was accepted individually by most of the district council’s own witnesses.

The district council also relentlessly pursued the imposition of a planning condition – ‘condition 15’ – further and unnecessarily prolonging the Inquiry and which the Inspectors considered was:

“an unnecessarily onerous and misconceived condition that patently fails to meet the relevant tests.”

What was the outcome?   Ultimately the Planning Inspectorate found that the strength of evidence in favour of the proposal was such that the application should ‘clearly’ have been granted planning permission in both 2018 and 2020 and as such the whole appeal/Inquiry process had been ‘unnecessary’. The Panel therefore found:

unreasonable behaviour resulting in unnecessary or wasted expense, as described in the PPG, had been demonstrated and that a full award of costs is justified.

The appellant will now seek to agree and recover these costs from the district council, an award expected to be at least £1 million.

Such a high award is quite astonishing and demonstrates the very real risk of Local Planning Authorities digging their heels in, pursuing unreasonable refusals, and failing to properly communicate with applicants and appellants.

Here’s the link to the appeal and costs decision letters: http://uttlesford.gov.uk/airport-appeal

Get Free Impartial Advice on Planning Issues including Costs Awards.

Parker Planning Services have an excellent track record, not only in achieving planning consent, but in winning awards of costs where the Local Planning Authority has acted unreasonably.

An Example: Parker Planning Services recently won a full award of costs relating to linked appeal cases concerning a site at The Stables, Badingham in East Suffolk.  In his decision letter on costs issued, dated 17th December 2020, the Planning Inspector finds that:

……. unreasonable behaviour resulting in unnecessary or wasted expense, as described in the PPG, has been demonstrated and that a full award of costs is justified in relation to submitting the appeals, preparing written evidence on Appeal A and Appeal B and 30 minutes of the Hearing sitting time.

So – If you think your Local Planning Authority has acted unreasonably, make an appointment to speak to a Parker Planning Services today. We can give you free impartial advice on your planning issues, including appeals and costs orders, and identify any routes to achieving your planning consent.

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