The Planning Inspectorate – the agency responsible for carrying out planning appeals – has apologised for its decision to award costs, which amounted to £6,000, against the Council of the Isles of Scilly.
The costs relate to the Council’s decision on 22 September 2016 to refuse planning consent for the conversion of agricultural buildings at Holy Vale into 3 units of open market residential accommodation. The decision was made in accordance with Policy 3 of the Local Plan, which does not permit any general open market homes on the islands.
The applicant appealed this decision and, on 3 August 2017, the Planning Inspectorate overturned it, thereby permitting the development. The applicant was also awarded full costs for ‘unreasonable behaviour resulting in unnecessary or wasted expense.'
On 12 September, the Council formally complained to the Inspectorate about the costs and the inconsistency of recent decisions in relation to Policy 3. The Inspectorate has now responded, apologising to the Council for the award of costs and confirming that the authority did not act unreasonably in reaching the decision to refuse the Holy Vale development. The Inspectorate has also confirmed that their decision does not set an ‘irresistible precedent’ to stop using policy 3 of the Local Plan.
Councillor Ted Moulson, Chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly, said: “We welcome the apology from the Planning Inspectorate, which goes some way to mitigating the significant damage that has been done to our efforts in implementing a local policy. It is disappointing, however, that the Council must bear the cost of an error made by the Inspectorate.
I would like to thank the staff in the Local Planning Authority for all of their efforts and for challenging the Inspectorate on this matter. It has been an unfortunate distraction at a time when they are working hard to deliver a new local plan for the community. As a small local authority we do not have the financial resource to challenge decisions through judicial review, but I am grateful to the team for pursuing this matter by way of complaint.”
Craig Dryden, Senior Manager for Infrastructure and Planning, said: “I would like to remind all potential applicants that we will continue to assess each application on its merits and work within Policy 3 of the current local plan. This restricts any new housing, including the conversion of existing buildings, to that which meets a specific local need or is delivering staff or key worker accommodation. In short, Policy 3 does not permit any general open market homes on the islands and is in place to protect the long-term viability of the community and in recognition of limited development opportunities. Until such time as a new Local Plan has been consulted on, we will continue to assess and make recommendations to determine planning applications against the current Local Plan and any other material considerations.”