Planning Inspector Castigates Council Over Application for Costs

A Planning Inspector has roundly criticised Bath and North East Somerset Council for applying for costs in connection with an enforcement notice appeal in Bath.

The Council’s application, in totality, was expressed as follows:

The LPA considers that the appellant has acted unreasonably in submitting this appeal and as such submits an application award for costs to the Planning Inspectorate in accordance with the guidance set out at paras 027-034 of the National Planning Practice Guidance [sic]

In his decision letter, the Inspector noted:

In fifteen years as a Planning Inspector this is the most pathetic application for costs I have ever had the misfortune to have to adjudicate on …

It is clear that the Council has failed to heed the advice that it has referred to. It has not offered any reason why the mere act of submitting this appeal might be said to constitute unreasonably behaviour. In the context of a statutory right of appeal it would be quite extraordinary for me to make an award of costs against an Appellant merely because they had exercised their right of appeal against such a notice. In the particular circumstances of this case, in the complete absence of any attempt to demonstrate unreasonable behaviour, having regard to the fact that the pertinent advice is in fact in paragraphs 051-054 to which I have not even been referred, this application must fail.

The Inspector went on to consider whether he should make an award of costs against the Council, even though no application had been made by the Appellant, because the Council failed to attend or be represented at the site visit; introduced new policies what were not quoted on the face of the notice; assessed the development against the wrong paragraph of the NPPF. Luckily for the Council, the Inspector exercised his discretion not to initiate an application for costs in this case.