Z group Wins Planning Appeal and Costs
Z group architects are delighted to report the successful appeal and the award of costs against Mole Valley District Council. It should be noted that the award of costs against a local authority is a very rare event, and only granted in the situations where Officers have behaved ‘unreasonably’.
The Appeal was in regard to a simple but very painful argument as to whether or not a development of a new house had been started.
The Planning Act is relatively generous in describing exactly what work is needed to have been started to implement a planning permission. In this case, works such as digging a trench and bringing in the necessary incoming water and electrical mains were
all carried out and are considered tasks specifically described in the Act as being suitable implementation works.
However Mole Valley Planning Department, without visiting the site, decided for whatever reason, that work had not started and even threatened enforcement if works were to continue.
Despite invitations to site meetings and doing our diplomatic best to allow the council to change their view, at the same time as saving face, they dug their heels in and did everything they could to avoid accepting the facts of the matter.
They escalated matters by insisting that a Certificate of Lawfulness was sought, and in the event, manufactured a whole set of reasons to avoid changing their original view. This was despite providing advice from a Planning Barrister. They refused to grant the Certificate of Lawfulness and forced us to seek the decision from the Planning Inspectorate.
In the event the Planning Inspectorate found that not only had work been implemented on site (and issued the certificates lawfulness that the council should have) but determined that the local authority had behaved unreasonably to such an extent that the Applicants cost of the appeal will now be paid by the Local Authority.
Winning costs in such circumstances is a very rare event, as the measure by which the Inspectorate consider unreasonable behaviour is very high. However, in this case the Inspector considered officers had been so obstructive that the Inspectorate considered it warranted such a penalty.
This matter was painfully simple and should never have been allowed by the Council’s management to run to the extent it did. More upsetting was the LPA’s little regard for care demonstrated by the significant financial and emotional impact that intransigent views we’re having on the elderly Applicants and the fact that in the event it is delayed the project by nearly two years. Sadly, the Inspectorate’s award for costs is only against the expenses related to making the appeal, not the full costs of the delays and upset caused.
This is a very disconcerting example of how heavy handed planning officers can be in dealing with what they consider to be procedural issues without actually considering the facts of the matter. We do sincerely hope that this penalty awarded against Mole Valley might force them to learn a few lessons as to how to manage the planning process. (It should be noted that the same Local Authority currently does not have a Local Plan in place and is over a year in the process of establishing housing need for the area).
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