Normally, the Council may get one appeal to be heard by way of inquiry every 1 – 2 years. There are currently four planning appeals to be heard by way of public inquiry that have all been submitted in the space of a few months. Officer time in carrying out the work necessary in defending these appeals would be significant and would result in time that would otherwise have been available for determining of planning applications not being available.
A supplementary estimate is therefore required for this work.
The Group Head of Planning presented his report to the Committee. He explained that four public appeals had been submitted all in close succession of each other. Normal practice was to receive one at the most every one or two years and so to receive this level was highly unusual. The Planning Department did not have the capacity in house to deal with the volume of work for all four of those appeals. The Group Head of Planning then explained the appeal costs as outlined in his report and why a supplementary estimate of £100,000 would be sufficient to cover all costs highlighted.
The Chair invited questions from the Committee. A couple of questions were asked in recognition of the fact that £100,000 was a significant amount of money. An observation was made that the current appeals had all been refused under delegated authority, which was positive, but the question that needed to be asked was whether the appeals were happening because of the presumption in favour of development and because the council was not complying with the Government’s demands for house building in the area. Were developers seeing opportunities to make demands and submit planning applications on sites outside of the local plan, with the expectation that the applications would be granted on appeal? What progress was the council making on putting this situation right? Another question was asked in relation to the Fitzalan Road acoustic barrier as it was understood that the acoustic advice given had been provided by the Highways Department at West Sussex County Council. Was there merit in negotiating with WSCC to meet some of these costs, especially as the height of the barrier was felt to be unnecessary for the noise and volume of traffic along that road.
The Group Head of Planning responded. He outlined that the appeals had been applications refused under delegated authority. He stated that the council had had the presumption in favour of sustainable development imposed upon it for over 2 years now and so this was not a new issue. There had also been some substantial appeals held recently such as Tarrs Farm, Barnham which because of the situation the council was in with its housing land supply and the high targets imposed, developers were taking a chance at appeal because it was a process and a system that was heavily in their favour in terms of applying that. It could not be said with absolute certainty that the council would win the appeals in front of an Inspector that might give way to other factors. Turing to the Fitzalan Road acoustic barrier, it was confirmed that WSCC did not get involved in the process in terms of the noise effectiveness of the barrier. They had only become involved in the technical aspects when Persimmon Homes had handed over the maintenance and management of the structure. It had been the council’s Environmental Health team that had dealt with the noise implications and the noise surveys that the applicants submitted at the time of the planning application.
Councillor Cooper then proposed the recommendation which was seconded by Councillor Roberts.
RECOMMEND TO FULL COUNCIL
That a supplementary estimate of £100,000 is agreed in order to defend appeals taken on planning applications A/110/21/PL A/168/21/PL, A/129/21/PL and P/178/21/OUT to cover the costs award in respect of BE/109/19/OUT and to carry out further work required on the Fitzalan Acoustic Barrier.
The Band D equivalent for a £100,000 supplementary estimate is £1.58.
(During the course of the debate on this item, Councillor Walsh declared a Personal Interest as a Member of West Sussex County Council).