Rother council could face £150k bill to defend refusal of 160 homes

The cost of defending a decision to refuse a major housing development in Little Common could be up to £150,000.

Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 5:29 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 5:35 pm

In a report to be considered by Rother District Council’s cabinet on Monday (October 5), officers are recommending that £150,000 be set aside to cover the potential costs of a planning appeal, related to the 160-home Spindlewood Drive development.

Cabinet members are asked to agree this funding be set aside and agree a strategy to the coming appeal process.

According to papers, the £150,000 would be a worst case scenario, which assumes the Planning Inspectorate opts to hold either a hearing or public inquiry, finds against the council and then awards costs to the developer.

To reduce these potential costs, the council is likely (pending cabinet approval) to request the appeal be held through written representations, rather than a hearing or public inquiry. 

This would significantly reduce the costs of defending the decision, although the council is likely to have to secure expert opinions. Even so, the costs are unlikely to go much beyond £10,000. 

This could raise to around £20,000 should the council lose and be ordered to compensate the developer for its costs.

A hearing or appeal, however, would cost the council around £75,000, due to the appointment of lawyers and planning consultants. The developer’s costs are likely to be similar.

In the report, a council spokesman said: “There are significant financial risks if Rother District Council (RDC) defended the case and lost.
“If RDC wins the appeal there are still non-recoverable costs. If RDC chose not to defend the appeal there is a risk the appellant will seek to recover costs incurred to date. 

“Members will be aware that if the appellant wins the appeal against the decision then no New Homes Bonus Grant will be received.

“Based on the number of properties in the application, it is estimated that £1,069,400 of grant will be foregone.”

The appeal comes after an outline application for the development was refused by the council’s planning committee in March this year.

The application had been recommended for approval by planning officers, but was refused by the committee on the grounds the potential impact on the Pevensey Levels special area of conservation was unclear.

The decision was taken despite strong advice from the council’s planning officers, legal team and a representative of Natural England, who said that conditions would prevent development moving ahead unless detailed mitigation measures could be approved.