The Council considered the development to result in inappropriate development as it was considered to fail to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment and to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.
The Planning Inspector could not determine from the information submitted by the Council how the proposal would compromise either of those purposes. Indeed, given that the proposal involves only the removal of a condition and no external works, and bearing in mind that the unit would remain a Class C3 dwellinghouse (in accordance with the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987) in any event, it is difficult to see how it would. Whatever conclusions were reached in relation to previous appeals, the assessment regarding inappropriateness and the purposes of the Green Belt needed to be made with regard to the current proposal and circumstances.
The Inspector appreciated that the Council has produced a statement in support of its decision and raises matters other than the Green Belt, with reference to relevant policies and guidance. However, the application for costs concerns only one aspect of that decision, and he agreed with the appellant that the Council had failed to adequately substantiate it. The Circular advises at Paragraph B16 that reasons should be complete, precise, specific and relevant to the application. Planning authorities will be expected to produce evidence at appeal stage to substantiate each reason for refusal. If they cannot do so, they risk a costs award against them for any unsubstantiated reason for refusal.
For these reasons it was concluded that the Council had failed to adequately support its reliance on Green Belt issues in its refusal of planning permission, contrary to the advice in paragraph B16 of the Circular. Accordingly, it acted unreasonably in that regard.
The Council’s unreasonable action has caused the appellant to incur unnecessary expense in addressing the issue of the Green Belt in relation to the appeal, using the services of a professional agent. It was therefore found that unreasonable behaviour resulting in unnecessary expense, as described in Circular 03/2009, had been demonstrated and that a partial award of costs was justified.