Costs An Issue In Bringing Action Against Homes Near Bowland Forest AONB

n Halton, Lancashire, having failed to detect 8 houses missing from layout plan, one Councillor grants casting vote in favour of 60 houses, citing fear of losing on appeal.

The council vote was split 50/50 down party lines and the Chairman cast his vote in favour – citing the risk of losing on appeal as his reason. This was despite costs, in this instance, not being a material planning consideration (costs did not have to be taken into account when deciding the planning application or on an appeal against the planning decision). Worse, it was never pointed out to the planing committee that the indicative layout plan showed not 60, but 52 houses and the planning officer’s detailed advice on environmental sensitivity was ignored.

Victoria Hutton at 39 Essex Street, gave a positive pro-bono opinion. On the strength of that opinion the matter went to Dr Justin Neal at Aaron & Partners. A letter before action was issued in October 2015.

It was with great regret that proceedings were not issued. With costs over £5,000.00 to just have the matter issued in the High Court, the community were not able to raise the funds.

Whilst ELF believed the case had strong merits, once again we see costs acting as a barrier to access to environmental justice. ELF will be assisting this community to make a Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) complaint.

Photo from Forest of Bowland, Lancashire County Council.