Appleton Wiske.: Government inspector orders council to pay developer appeal costs after 'unreasonable' refusal of housing development
Government inspector Chris Baxter has ordered Hambleton District Council to pay developer James Baker the full costs of his appeal against the authority’s planning committee refusing a move to build four homes on land east of the former Shorthorn Inn at Appleton Wiske.
Last summer, going against the recommendation of its planning officers, the planning committee concluded the location, scale and form of development would have a harmful impact on the character and appearance of the village.
Councillors added the application had not sufficiently taken into account previously developed land within the village and when combined with other recent developments would harm to the character of the village.
However, Mr Baxter rejected the councillors’ reasons for rejecting the development, saying the refusal had not been “substantiated other than bymeans of vague assertions”.
He said while councillors were not duty bound to follow advice of officers, if a different decision was reached councillors had to clearly demonstrate on planning grounds why a proposal is unacceptable.
Mr Baxter wrote: “In the planning judgement, it appears to me that having regard to the provisions of the development plan, national planning policy and other material considerations, the proposal should reasonably have been permitted.
“The refusal of planning permission therefore constitutes unreasonable behaviour… and the appellant has been faced with theunnecessary expense of lodging the appeal.”
Hugh Roberts, of planning consultants Richard Roberts, who has worked with Mr Baker on the Appleton Wiske development, said while Hambleton’s Local Plan had been adopted by its elected members in February last year, councillors had regularly strayed from its policies since for reasons which often appeared “spurious” or based on public pressure.
He said unwarranted refusals led to big delays for small and medium size housebuilders, while the taxpayer was left funding appeals that should never have happened because the proposals were completely in line with the council’s policies.
Mr Roberts said: “It is really frustrating that the taxpayer has to pay for it. What a waste of taxpayers money for something which should have been approved in line with officer recommendation against policies determined by councillors only a year ago, which they spent seven years working up in the Local Plan. It seems ridiculous.
“I would like to see more of people taking the advice of their officers and people who are experts in their field rather than making decisions based on things that are not based on evidence.”
North Yorkshire County Council’s former executive member for planning Councillor Simon Myers said the public did not appear to understand the limitations that were placed on the discretion of planning committee members if they are not to put the council at risk of losing costly appeals.
He said the public often suggested reasons to refuse planning applications that were not considered material planning considerations in national policy which was set by the government.
Coun Myers said: “If members of the public understood that better maybe councillors would feel slightly less pressure to bend to the public will.”
Hambleton District Council has been approached to comment.