The Planning Inspectorate – the agency responsible for carrying out planning appeals – has apologised for its decision to award costs against the Council of the Isles of Scilly, the Council has said in a statement.
The costs relate to the Council’s decision on September 22 2016 to refuse planning consent for the conversion of agricultural buildings at Holy Vale into three 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 the decision and, on August 3 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.' The costs amounted to more than £6,000.
In September, the Council formally complained to the Inspectorate about the costs and what it viewed as 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 saying that the authority did not act unreasonably in reaching the decision to refuse the Holy Vale development.
The Inspectorate also said that its decision does not set an ‘irresistible precedent’ to stop using policy 3 of the Local Plan.
Council Chairman Ted Moulson 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.
"As a small local authority we do not have the financial resource to challenge decisions through judicial review, but I am grateful to the [planning] 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.”
The Holy Vale Partnership's planning consultant has now challenged the Planning Inspectorate’s apology to the Council, primarily on the grounds that the Inspectorate's action is "contrary to the procedure guide" for planning appeals in England.