Vexatious objectors could face cost awards

Vexatious objectors to planning applications could in future be forced to contribute to an applicant's or planning authority's costs, a senior Planning Inspectorate official said yesterday.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles announced last month that he intended to give planning inspectors more power to initiate an award of costs in planning appeal proceedings.

He said that this would happen "where it is clear that an application has not been handled as it should have been with due process", prompting commentators to observe that the only parties likely to be penalised were local planning authorities.

However, responding to questions about the costs imposed by vexatious objections at a conference yesterday, PINS casework director Mark Southgate pointed out that this could potentially be addressed by the inspectorate's promised new power.

Speaking to Planning after his speech, Southgate said that "we will have to see whether the power will apply across the board", rather than simply to awards of costs against councils.

Southgate was speaking at the British Institute of Agricultural Consultants rural planning conference, which took place near Kettering in Northamptonshire.

He also told delegates that tests applied to applications for essential agricultural workers' dwellings might reappear following the government review of the guidance that previously underlay planning policy guidance and statements. The tests were largely swept away by the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework.