High Court judge doubles costs payment following failed Wigan legal challenge

A High Court judge has doubled the amount two objectors must pay following their failed legal challenge against a council's grant of planning approval for a 39-home development in Wigan.

London's Royal Courts of Justice
London's Royal Courts of Justice

Steven Howard and Justine Bennett were hit with a legal costs bill of £10,000 in respect of their failed challenge almost a year to the day ago.

The bill is double what they expected to have to pay. They had earlier obtained a protected costs order (PCO) limiting their liability in costs if they lost the case to £5,000.

But earlier this week at London’s High Court Mr Justice Supperstone doubled that sum. However, it is still not as much as the council was asking for. It had sought an order that they should pay £15,723.

Howard and Bennett had challenged the council’s planning consent to developer Morris Homes for 39 homes on land to the south of 43/44 Herons Wharf, Appley Bridge, Wigan.

When the case was heard last December they had argued that the council had failed to consider possible environmental effects of contaminated land at the site.

They claimed that the council had made a "flawed" screening opinion to the effect that a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was not required under EU law.

The council’s principal planning officer had noted that the history of the site could potentially give rise to issues surrounding ground contamination, with investigations into potential anthrax contamination having been carried out.

But he had concluded that there was no information to suggest that the threat was significant, and found that, whilst there may be some environmental impacts from the development, they were likely to be localised and capable of being adequately mitigated.

When he dismissed the objections last year the same judge who imposed the legal costs order said that it was clear from the screening opinion, read as a whole, that the officer paid proper regard to the land contamination issues, and that he accepted the submissions advanced on behalf of the council that there would be nothing "overly complex" about the remediation proposals for this small development.

He had told the objectors: "In my view it is clear that specific attention was paid to the potential contamination of the site and Mr Foster came to an overall view in the screening opinion that any environmental effects will not be significant and could be successfully mitigated."

Howard & Anr v Wigan Council. Case Number: CO/1407/2014

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