Costs awarded against council for delays

Up to 130 dwellings on the edge of a settlement in County Durham were approved in an appeal against non-determination, despite a contested planning agreement regarding highway improvements to a nearby roundabout. The council had costs awarded against them for unreasonable delays in processing the application.

The appeal had been against non-determination and the council were going to approve the proposal but there was now a dispute regarding the suggested planning obligation about contributions towards improvements to a roundabout 500 metres from the site. The inspector considered the evidence in relation to this and noted the appellant’s transport assessment concluded that the impact of the development on the roundabout was not significant. The council’s own traffic modelling showed there would be limited practical difference in terms of traffic impact with or without the development and would have no severe cumulative impacts. No details were provided as part of the appeal from the council as to what works were required and the inspector concluded it had not been clearly demonstrated that improvements to the roundabout were necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms. Additionally, the council’s requirement in the contested agreement was to enter into an S278 agreement under the Highways Act, 1980 but the inspector held this was inappropriate and would not comply with the CIL Regulations or the NPPF. The council had added the requirement because it had been included in an agreement on a previous permission for similar development in 2018, but the inspector held there was no need for it based on the evidence.

An award of costs was granted against the council for unnecessary delays in processing and reaching a decision on the application as it was deferred at committee for further information on drainage matters which had already been agreed to be finalised through a condition at a prior meeting. The inspector felt the council had acted unreasonably in this regard and put the applicant to unnecessary expense in making the appeal. 

Inspector: Geoff Underwood; Written representations

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