The Planning Inspector had to assess whether the Council had behaved unreasonably, and thereby caused the party applying for the costs to incur unnecessary or wasted expense in the appeal process.
The application was recommended for approval by the Council’s officers. Members are not bound to accept the recommendations of their officers, however, this does not exempt them from following the Planning Practice Guidance which says that Local Planning Authorities are at risk of an award of costs if they behave unreasonably with respect to the substance of the matter under appeal.
Examples of this include: “Preventing or delaying development which should clearly be permitted, having regard to its accordance with the development plan, national policy and any other material considerations” and “vague, generalised or inaccurate assertions about a proposal’s impact, which are unsupported by any objective analysis”.
The Inspector said that the reason for refusal is very clear: this is that the proposed parking at the Pack Horse pub was considered to be inadequate due to practicalities of enforcing its availability. No mention of weekday parking is in the reason for refusal. Whilst the Council has provided evidence about the impact upon highway safety of on-street parking, it has virtually ignored the actual reason for refusal and has provided no substantiation of why it disagreed with the case officer’s advice that a planning condition could secure the use of the car park. In its evidence, the Council made some assertion that the car park is secluded but, given that the car park is already used, albeit used at a different time of day to when the restaurant would be using it, this is a very weak argument and lighting could have been required by way of a condition.
It was considered by the Inspector that the development should have been clearly permitted and that the Council’s evidence in respect of the reason for refusal was unsupported by objective analysis. The Council has therefore behaved unreasonably, and thereby caused the party applying for the costs to incur unnecessary expense in the appeal process.