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01/12/2017

Surrey council admits £500k cost of defending planning appeals

Words: Huw Morris

A Surrey local authority without an up-to-date plan has spent more than £500,000 in the past two years countering planning appeals amid 'significant concern' about its handling of major applications.

Waverley District Council spent £450,000 defending appeals and a further £51,000 in pay-outs to appellants where inspectors concluded it had “behaved unreasonably”.

A planning development control report to Waverley’s executive committee says the main reasons for lost appeals are due to an out of date local plan and inability to demonstrate the five-year housing land of supply.

While the planning department’s performance on speed of dealing with all applications is excellent and its handling of non-major appeals is within government targets, major appeals is “of significant concern”.

The council has lost eight out of 125 major appeals and expects this to rise to 13. The report says against a government threshold of no more than 10% of major appeals lost, the council’s latest performance is 6.4% and warns this could rise to 10.4 per cent.

Taking into account outstanding major appeals in a worst case scenario, the number of appeals lost could rise to 20 or 16 per cent. The report acknowledges this could trigger special measures, with the Planning Inspectorate taking over major applications.

The committee agreed to the report’s recommendations that officers and members should be trained in meeting government targets and the implications for not doing so. Members should also “engage the pre-application process effectively to ensure all possible concerns are raised as early as possible to avoid unnecessary refusals”.

Image credit | iStock

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