On closer examination

The refusal of outline permission for an infill dwelling in a Sussex village has been overturned at appeal after it was discovered that the council had been wrong in stating that the site was within the 400m exclusion zone of the Ashdown Forest Special Protection Area (DCS Number 400-036-402). 

The council explained that the 400m zone had been drawn some time previously within their GiS mapping system, Datamap. A Datamap had been provided illustrating that the mapping system included virtually the whole site within the exclusion zone, the inspector noted. She recognised that, in assessing the site’s location in respect of the exclusion zone during the course of the consideration of the planning application, the council believed that they acted to the best of their knowledge given the information at hand. However, it became apparent to the council that the Datamap drawing capability was not the best by modern-day standards and this left the exclusion zone border open to interpretation. On further evaluation the council accepted that the site was just outside the exclusion zone.

In determining an application for costs against the council the inspector was clear that its actions were not deliberate. However, she found that the fact of the matter was that the council’s GiS mapping system was misleading and this was not the fault of the applicant. The PPG provides examples of unreasonable behaviour which may result in an award of costs, she noted, and withdrawal of any reason for refusal is one such example. 

Awarding costs to the applicant, the inspector ruled that the misleading information had resulted in an unnecessary appeal and had put the applicant to unnecessary time and expense in defending the appeal. She acknowledged that the situation was unfortunate for the council, but concluded that its reason for refusal had not stood up to scrutiny.

It’s always worth a closer look!

Section 6.13 of DCP Online concerns costs awards after unreasonable refusal.