Councils 'pay out £12m' on lost planning appeals

NEARLY £12m has been paid out by councils in lost planning appeals in the last six years, according to new research.

Freedom of Information requests by property consultancy Daniel Watney found that 178 councils have paid out £11.96m between 2010-11 and 2015-16.

Cornwall Council had the highest total at £981,332 from six lost appeals.

Meanwhile, Halton Borough Council in Cheshire had the highest average sum per lost appeal at £360,735. Poole Borough Council in Dorset in had the highest number of cost decisions against it at 30.

Charlie Mills, partner and head of planning at Daniel Watney, said pay-outs typically come out of a local authority's budget and with many planning departments already struggling with cuts to funding and staff, there are concerns money is being lost needlessly.

However, he added, the figure would be much higher if it were not for the "onerous" process for costs applications.

"When you go through a planning appeal, you make an application of costs to the inspector at the time of the appeal but many won't necessarily do that. For that to be successful, you have to be able to show that the local authority has acted unreasonably, which there isn't a specific test for. It is quite an onerous task to demonstrate that a local authority has been unreasonable during the process," Mills said.

"In addition, planning appeal inspectors, understandably in a period of cuts to local council budgets, appear to only be willing to allow costs against councils in the most extreme cases."