Council fails to defend decision after rejecting officer recommendation

A Buckinghamshire council's decision to refuse to grant reserved matters approval for 60 apartments as part of a much large redevelopment was held to be unreasonable, leading to an award of costs in favour of the appellant.

The council had refused approval on the basis that the scheme made insufficient provision for those with impaired mobility with particular regard to the siting of car parking spaces. But no evidence had been presented to justify this position, an inspector noted. Car parking would be provided to the rear of the apartments with level access into the building. The ground floor apartments would be suitable for those with impaired mobility and there was a reasonably direct and convenient route to the parking area, he decided.

He made a full award of costs to the appellant, noting that the application had been presented twice to the council’s planning committee and each time a recommendation for approval was rejected. Taking a decision against officer advice was not by itself unreasonable, the inspector held, but in the case before him the evidence to support it was scant. In particular, the council had no design standard which set distances between parking spaces and access to residential properties. They had placed too much weight on the distances to the front doors of the apartments rather than taking a pragmatic and balanced view as to the accessibility from the rear.

Inspector: Chris Forrett; Written representations

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