Council to pay full costs for insufficient weight afforded to emerging plan

57 new dwellings on the edge of a town in East Dunbartonshire, Scotland, were allowed in accordance with the development plan. Costs were awarded against the council for unreasonable behaviour.

The reporter considered the overriding issues related to matters of appearance and character and highway safety but importantly, what constituted the development plan for the area. The appeal site had been identified as designated green belt land in the 2011 local plan which was the one referred to in the refusal of the scheme by the council’s planning board, against officer recommendation. However, the principle of developing the site had been accepted in the emerging, but since ratified 2017 local plan, despite objections to its inclusion.

The planning board argued that the proposal was unacceptable in principle, premature and that the scheme’s layout and point of access would be dangerous to highway safety. But the reporter concluded the proposed development was compatible with the character and amenity of the area, was of an acceptable design quality and, subject to the provision of the required sightlines, would not give rise to highway safety issues. In these respects, and with the ratification of the new local plan by Scottish ministers between the date of the refusal and the appeal, the proposal was in accord with policy.

A full award of costs was granted to the appellant for unreasonable behaviour on the part of the planning board. The reporter considered that it was incumbent upon the planning board to recognize that the relevant policies of the 2011 plan, in respect of the appeal site, were out of date. The emerging plan was a material consideration. The council had provided no satisfactory explanation for why its planning board did not place significant weight on the emerging plan in arriving at its decision, especially as the plan had been ratified by the council itself before the decision was made. The reporter also concluded that it was incorrect to regard the proposed development as premature. Equally, he found it was unreasonable of the planning board to reject the advice of its professional officers on the highway safety matter.

Reporter: Andrew Sikes; Written representations

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