Cheshire West councillors run up £1m bill fighting planning applications

Wirral Globe: Cheshire West and Chester Council leader Mike Jones said £1m bill is "the heavy price of democracy" Cheshire West and Chester Council leader Mike Jones said £1m bill is "the heavy price of democracy"

PROTECTING their communities and environment from unwanted housing developments across west Cheshire has come at a high price as the local authority faces a bill of more than £1 million.

Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC) revealed it faces the £1m plus bill after members "supported the views of their local communities" by refusing a number of applications, only to have those decisions overturned by Planning Inspectors at appeal.

Under the National Planning Policy, Inspectors have ruled against the authority because it did not have a five year supply of housing land.

Until CWAC’s emerging Local Plan is adopted, the policy is still governed by a housing target based on out-of-date evidence in a now defunct regional plan dating back to 2003.

Costs already awarded against the council and claims in the pipeline, plus the authority’s £268,000 bill for legal and inquiry fees, mean that CWAC is to pay a high price for members’ determination to protect their communities and environment from unacceptable development.

CWAC has priorities the development of its Local Plan after being told to start the process afresh in 2010. The plan has been submitted to the Secretary of State for public examination with hearings likely to take place in the spring.

Council leader Mike Jones said: “Our planning officers can only make recommendations based within current planning policies and guidance.

“There is little flexibility for them to reflect the views of the local community if the grounds for opposition fall outside these parameters.

“However, elected members of all parties have understandably listened carefully to local communities affected by these developments and rejected applications which have subsequently been allowed on appeal.”

Councillor Jones added: “Sadly, the reality of the situation is that council support for members at appeal has been heavily and in my view unfairly punished financially - in some respects, the heavy price of democracy.

“The way to address this situation is by putting in place an up-to-date Local Plan – and that’s exactly what the council is doing. Our Local Plan is now at its final examination stage and we hope to be in a position to adopt it late Summer.”

Cheshire West and Chester’s Local Plan identifies that 22,000 new homes should be built by 2030 and protects the North Cheshire Green Belt with a single proposed release of land off Wrexham Road.

With consents already in the pipeline for well in excess of 10,000 new homes, opponents of the plan have accused developers of “land banking” and should be encouraged to start building before any further permissions are granted.

Comments (3)

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1:47pm Tue 4 Feb 14

Thepleb says...

O Jesus and Wirral council are joining with these God help us
O Jesus and Wirral council are joining with these God help us Thepleb
  • Score: 6

2:30pm Tue 4 Feb 14

Growl Tiger says...

At least the CWAC planning officers and councillors have ears when it comes to listening to residents. The Wirral lot are so fearful of litigation they give in to almost any planning application even when it is shoehorned onto a totally unsuitable plot.
At least the CWAC planning officers and councillors have ears when it comes to listening to residents. The Wirral lot are so fearful of litigation they give in to almost any planning application even when it is shoehorned onto a totally unsuitable plot. Growl Tiger
  • Score: 6

9:47pm Wed 5 Feb 14

Lidworth says...

The problem with Growl Tigers view is that the costs incurred in CWaC were because Councillors make bad decisions contrary to advice of professional officers (and Conservative government policy) for nothing more than political popularity. In voting to refuse housing schemes on the edge sustainable villages and towns these Councillors were in effect denying young families, teachers, nurses, policemen etc an affordable home in preference to placating older conservative voters who live in large houses (built on greenfields) in leafy villages and who have done very well out of the boom in house prices from the 1990s.

Wasting over £1m of council tax payers money just to try and stop much needed homes being built is just nonsense - it's not as if they were trying to stand up to unneeded rail projects like HS2, waste incinerators or nuclear power stations. It's just been wasted trying to stop developers trying to provide houses for young families which the Council should be facilitating by making enough land available for through the planning system. Because the Council has failed to this they have rightly been penalised.

The real question is why can't Councillors who waste public money so regularly, be surcharged personally so that council tax payers aren't forced to pick up the tab for their political games?
The problem with Growl Tigers view is that the costs incurred in CWaC were because Councillors make bad decisions contrary to advice of professional officers (and Conservative government policy) for nothing more than political popularity. In voting to refuse housing schemes on the edge sustainable villages and towns these Councillors were in effect denying young families, teachers, nurses, policemen etc an affordable home in preference to placating older conservative voters who live in large houses (built on greenfields) in leafy villages and who have done very well out of the boom in house prices from the 1990s. Wasting over £1m of council tax payers money just to try and stop much needed homes being built is just nonsense - it's not as if they were trying to stand up to unneeded rail projects like HS2, waste incinerators or nuclear power stations. It's just been wasted trying to stop developers trying to provide houses for young families which the Council should be facilitating by making enough land available for through the planning system. Because the Council has failed to this they have rightly been penalised. The real question is why can't Councillors who waste public money so regularly, be surcharged personally so that council tax payers aren't forced to pick up the tab for their political games? Lidworth
  • Score: 2

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