Horsham District Council has been ordered to pay substantial costs relating to a failed appeal against plans to build up to 102 homes in Henfield.
Planning inspector Christine Newmarch has awarded full costs to Welbeck Strategic Land LLP against the council, which are expected to be substantial. Full costs may only be awarded against a party which has behaved unreasonably and thereby caused the party applying for costs to incur unnecessary or wasted expense in the appeal process.
Welbeck had employed a strong team for the public inquiry, headed by QC Mark Lowe with top planning expert Charlotte Yarker. Prior to the inquiry they had asked the council for updates.
“The council does not appear to have taken an initiative on this matter, or sought to negotiate an extension of time needed to bring the proposal before its members for consideration. It failed to give a proper explanation for the delays and by March 13, the date on which the appeal against non-determination was made, the council had not given an indication of when the application might be considered,” said Mrs Newmarch.
She said an objection from West Sussex County Council as an adjoining landowner had been lodged on November 9, but the conflict with the county council’s response as highway authority was not raised until after the appeal was lodged four months later - and no further information was requested by the council.
The council decided not to contest the appeal on May 15, maintaining a watching brief at the inquiry and assisted in discussions on the Section 106 agreement and planning conditions.
Mrs Newmarch said: “It responded to the application for costs. While these actions helped reduce the scale of the appellant’s costs, it failed to demonstrate that there were specific and adeqate reasons for its failure to determine the application within the statutory period. I find that unreasonable behaviour resulting in unecessary expense has been demonstrated. I conclude that a full award of costs is justified.”
Henfield residents and campaign groups, who consistently maintained that the village does not have the infrastructure to cope with the development, are bitter about what they say is the council’s failure to handle the application properly.
“We have been badly let down by the council,” said Carol Eastwood. For full story see page 3