Posted by: westlancashirerecord | October 18, 2018

The Death Of Political Trust, If It Was Ever Alive?

As reported in the Champion , members of the Aughton Residents Group (2012) feel misled and betrayed by Labour WLBC over the new 2018 Local Plan. It’s not the first time, as history proves with reference to the Tory 2013 Local Plan. Parrs Lane is and always will be a source of Aughton’s anger and contempt against WLBC and the land developers with their long held options.

But seldom has such betrayal come with the costs to council tax payers of the Parrs Lane dispute revealed when I asked WLBC “Would you be kind enough to supply me with a) the full cost, including all legal advice and legal representation, to WLBC of defending the appeals, and defending the applications to develop the land referred to above and b) was the full cost mentioned in a) above awarded to WLBC on the presumption that costs follow the case?”.

Answer “The Council is unable to provide an accurate figure for the “full cost”, as it does not generally record officers’ time spent on dealing with applications and appeals, given these are part of their normal workload. However, the Council has paid Counsel’s fees for legal advice and representation in the sum of £81,248.35 in connection with the two joint planning inquiries held in 2016 and 2018. Of that figure, £44,592.75 was incurred in connection with the first inquiry and £36,655.60 for the second inquiry. Costs do not follow the event at planning inquiries and, generally, they are only awarded if a party behaves unreasonably and puts the other party to unnecessary expense. No such applications were made at the two inquiries.

“Following the receipt of the first decision in August 2016 (it was a joint inquiry with Redrow, the second being published in December 2016) following the inquiry in May 2016, the Council successfully challenged the decision to grant planning permission for the Wainhomes development. As part of those proceedings, and as costs do generally follow the event in civil proceedings, the Council successfully recovered its costs in the sum of £37,511.50, so there was no cost to the Council for challenging the decision”.

There is an ex gratia scheme for re-determination inquires where the Secretary of State decides, on the basis of legal advice, not to defend a challenge brought and submits to the Court’s judgement (see previous paragraph). In such circumstances the Secretary of State will consider what went wrong and whether an ex gratia payment in respect of the costs of the redetermination is appropriate. Following the receipt of the redetermination of the appeals decisions in March 2018, the Council submitted a claim for Counsel’s fees in the sum of £36,655.60. Further, as part of that claim, the Council has included a claim for officer time. The latter was recorded for this second inquiry, as the Council was aware of the ex-gratia scheme and that it would be able to submit a claim under it. The total sum which has been claimed is £51,962.60. A decision is awaited.

Now, as the Labour group refutes that any betrayal has taken place, we are asked to believe “that the proposals out for discussion offer a host of positives in that a greater degree of control over what type and in which location is on offer by giving a longer term degree of strategic planning which in turn will bring great benefits to the borough of West Lancs”.

Yet the next sentence puts the blame on the “previous Conservative administration”. Which brings us back to why the Labour administration won in court and lost in current planning criteria while knowing the court case victory was incidental and pointless. Political trust? Pull the other one!

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