Planning officer's recommendation overruled in costs award

A local authority in greater Manchester has been judged by an inspector to have acted unreasonably in refusing permission to infill and restore a quarry who concluded that its evidence had been based on generalised fears which were not underpinned by evidence.

The appellant proposed to infill the quarry with imported inert construction waste to restore it to its original levels and then use the land for agriculture. The council claimed, however, that this would generate up to 16 heavy goods vehicle per day which could stretch over two years before the quarry was filled with 35,000m2 tonnes of waste. This would undermine highway safety, cause noise to local residents and harm the character of a conservation area.

If the period of infilling took two years the total number of HGVs arriving at the site would be significantly less than 16 per day, the inspector decided, and in any event it would represent a very small proportion of traffic levels on the road network. Vehicles waiting at a junction would cause some noise but this would not be significant given background levels and no material change in the character of the conservation area would occur. Although the council sought to claim that its concerns were based on the potential perception of increased congestion and disturbance, this should have been underpinned with quantitative measurements, the inspector ruled. The fact that local councillors relied on their own knowledge of the site and surroundings did not provide a respectable basis for resisting the scheme and a full award of costs was made in favour of the appellant.

Inspector: Brendan Lyons; Hearing

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