Decision Maker: Planning Committee
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
Upon the invitation of the Chair, the Group Head of Planning presented the report which sought the Committee to determine whether it wished to continue to pursue the resolution of the Committee in May 2022 [Minute 44 - a preference to secure the reduction in height of the acoustic barrier] as a result of increased certainty around the scale of likely costs. Further discussions with West Sussex County Council suggested that the overall costs and potential compensation costs could be significant and would be likely to far exceed £2 million.
Following a speech by Councillor Walsh given permission to speak by the Committee as a non-Committee Member in which he asked the Committee to defer making a decision to allow for Officers to undertake proper cost-estimate for the works, Members took part in a debate on the item where a number of points were raised and responded to by Officers, including:
· the quality of the advice received from previous consultants and recourse to legal action against them should this be appropriate, and the need for new more specialised legal advice
· instances of anti-social behaviour having followed the barrier’s erection, this being a reason some residents support keeping it in place, and the need for the police to enforce more in area and the school to become more involved
· concerns over projected costings but the need for adequate tender figures to get a better handle of the potential costs involved before making a final decision
· a general desire amongst Members that if the work could be done for a reasonable sum then it should be for the benefit of local residents
· the negative attention the barrier and by extension the Council had received in the press
· support for some sort of deferral in order to get factual information ahead of making a firm decision
· the need for further consultation with residents to get a more long-term reaction to it
· the need to make the right decision, not a kneejerk decision
· the impact of the fence on Littlehampton and its residents as a whole
· options explored that could protect the Council from exposure to costs
· the potential costs involved and Arun currently having no responsibility for the barrier
· the length of time taken to reach this point and whether deferral to an indefinite future point was the best solution
· whether the County Council as owner of the barrier should submit a planning application to Arun as the Local Planning Authority to lower it in order for Arun to avoid liability, though this may open the County Council up to increased liability
· the barrier not acting sufficiently well as a noise barrier and whether arguments could be made, rather than along aesthetic lines, that it is not fit for purpose
The Group Head of Planning explained that, on the legal advice received, by carrying out any works on the structure, the Council would become liable for any Part 1 compensation claims (brought about due to a change in people’s residential amenity) that were currently dealt with through legal indemnity agreements between Persimmon and West Sussex County Council, and that the package of costs that Arun would need to budget for would need to include this compensation liability as well as the cost of any work done to the structure itself.
The Legal Services Manager explained that the Council as the Local Planning Authority was the regulator that received a planning application, and the legal advice was clear that the decision the Planning Committee made when approving the original application was correct in every aspect based on the information it had at the time and the decision was therefore not challengeable on any grounds as being unreasonable. He further explained that if the County Council or residents wanted Arun to make a statutory order to change the barrier in any way, an application would need to be submitted and as part of that then the County Council and/or residents would need to waive their right to compensation or agree to become liable for the compensation themselves as someone would need to fund it but as it was not Arun’s wall it should not be Arun.
At the end of the discussion, a recommendation that the matter be pursued further to get more factual information on the works required and a better handle on the potential costs involved in order to make a firm decision, including options that could protect the Council from exposure to costs and following additional consultation with local residents was proposed by Councillor Chace and seconded by Councillor Bower.
That the matter be pursued further to get more factual information on the works required and a better handle on the potential costs involved in order to make a firm decision, including options that could protect the Council from exposure to costs and following additional consultation with local residents.
Report author: Jonny Cooper
Publication date: 16/02/2023
Date of decision: 08/02/2023
Decided at meeting: 08/02/2023 - Planning Committee