Council blunder costs taxpayer £20,000

A council blunder over the Jerwood plans has cost the taxpayer more than £20,000.

The original application for the redevelopment of the Stade had to be withdrawn after a legal challenge from a local resident.

He claimed Hastings Borough Council (HBC) officers had not addressed traffic concerns around the site and the council decided to submit a new application, approved in December.

The High Court ordered the council pay all the legal fees – revealed this week as 20,679.

Matthew Elliott of the Taxpayers' Alliance said: "It is despicable that such huge legal fees have arisen because the council was incompetent when it drew up the initial plans."

Paddy Stephenson, of Whittlewood Close, St Leonards, who has fought a long-running campaign against council planners, was also amazed at the amount.

"How many more times will the taxpayer have to fork out hard-earned money when planning officers make mistakes?" she said.

"If this occurred within the private sector those responsible would receive their marching orders. In the case of the council, a rap on the knuckles will probably suffice.

"If planning personnel are not up to the job they are paid to do, they should be removed before we are faced with further costs," she added.

The amount came to a light thanks to a question posted on the council website.

Kevin Boorman, who oversees the Jerwood project, said the council did its best to keep the costs down.

"I am obviously disappointed it has cost us 20,000 and I would have preferred to spend the money in other ways," he said.

"We chose not to fight the challenge in court and did all we could to contain the legal costs.

"I would make the point that this was a technical challenge over a procedural point and that the application was again agreed unanimously when it was re-submitted in December."

Mr Boorman refused to be drawn on whether anyone had been disciplined over the bungled first application. But he said: "When anyone takes any successful action against us we review our procedures and there are always lessons to be learned."

The Taxpayers' Alliance called on HBC to find savings elsewhere in the project to make up for the legal bill.