LETTER: Probing questions for the council

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Cllr Leonard Crosbie’s Scrutiny Committee has been delving into how planning appeal costs at the council have run out of control under the stewardship of Cllr Vickers, cabinet member for planning.

An officers’ report into this disgraceful state of affairs states: ‘There have been a high number of difficult appeals and this has added to the costs for the department as a whole due to the time involved in discussing and settling legal fees, expert witness fees and costs awarded against the Council in a number of cases where Inspectors concluded that we acted unreasonably in refusing permission.’ (Finance & Performance Working Group, 18.6.15, p73, horsham.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/23368/Agenda_150618-.pdf)

In Quarter 4 (2014/14) alone a total of £347,619 in adverse costs were awarded against the council (Finance & Performance Working Group, 26.8.15, horsham.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/24380/Agenda_150826.pdf).

The Note to the figures on page 25 states alongside Cllr Vickers’ name as the person who holds responsibility for this: ‘This includes costs incurred by HDC and costs awarded for both appeals in progress and appeals allowed.’

Cllr Dawe appointed Cllr Vickers in May 2013 following Cllr Ian Howard’s abrupt and unexpected departure. And since her appointment her planning department at the council has gone from amongst the very best in the country to one of the worst.

The planning department only just escaped being placed in ‘special measures’ by the Government. Backbenchers such as Cllr Leonard Crosbie and Cllr Christian Mitchell must continue to allow daylight to shine into all the dark corners of the council and ask the probing questions that they need to. But will the cabinet co-operate?

DAVID SHIPTON

Downsview Road, Horsham

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