A recent appeal decision (DCS Number 400-029-264) serves as a reminder that planning committee members who fail to heed their officers’ advice, having been swayed solely by local opinion, are in peril of seeing an award of costs made against their council.
In this case neighbours were concerned that an additional bedroom in a West Midlands house in multiple occupation would result in noise and disturbance, and parking pressure on local roads.
The inspector recorded that in reaching its decision, the council had clearly diverged from the views of the planning officers and, with regards the second reason for refusal, the highways officers. He recognised that elected members of the planning committee were entitled to reach their own conclusions based on the evidence before them. However, he noted that no substantive evidence had been produced to support the council’s concern that the addition of a single additional bedroom would result in additional parking demand such that it would harm highway safety or that the single additional bedroom would result in harm to the living conditions of the adjoining occupiers. Awarding full costs to the applicant, he found that having relied solely or mainly upon objections from local residents in the absence of substantive evidence to support these concerns amounted to unreasonable behaviour on the part of the council.
There is a section concerning the failure to substantiate reasons for refusal at section 6.131 of DCP Online and a whole host of appeal examples where costs have been awarded to the applicant in such circumstances at section 6.1311.