"Kent County Council (KCC) and H+H Celcon (Celcon) have been found guilty by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) of behaving unreasonably towards Wrotham and Ightham Parish Councils (WPC) who have been awarded all of their costs of the Celcon Block Factory Inquiry, as Rule 6 parties.
We have heard from Matthew Horton QC’s chambers, WPC’s Barrister, that it is totally unprecedented for third party organisations to be awarded costs arising from Call-In Inquiries.Such was the magnitude of errors made by Celcon and KCC that an ‘exceptional’ award of all Rule 6 costs have been made against them.“For (Celcon) to proceed beyond the Pre Inquiry Meeting in January 2007 and then submit the Lawful Development Certificate (LDC) application to KCC in March 2007 ... does not suggest a carefully planned approach to securing a desired outcome...H&H, as a professionally represented applicant for planning permission in a major and locally controversial case, acted unreasonably by:
1. Not approaching the purely legal issue, of whether an earlier planning permission had been implemented in a reasonable and timely manner, given the separate statutory process for resolving that issue via an application for a lawful development certificate, with the result that
2. The inquiry into the called-in planning application collapsed following its late withdrawal thus causing other parties to incur abortive expense.
The PINS ruled against H+H Celcon for their late submission for a LDC and made them liable for all of KCC’s costs throughout the Inquiry and partially liable for the majority of the Parish Council's costs. In a further twist in this complex tale of incompetence, on the 11 May 2007 KCC granted Celcon’s late request for a Lawful Development Certificate. When Keep Boroughs Green asked for Judicial Review of that decision, KCC formally admitted by letter to the PINS on the 29 August 2007 that they had done so without checking the evidence and they should not have issued the LDC.
That fateful decision has resulted in an award of costs against KCC for part of Celcon’s costs and half of the Parish Councils from 11 May 2007.
This reflects badly on both KCC and Celcon, Celcon has lost all of their application costs, but the largest financial penalties are imposed on KCC. Celcon fielded a barrister with a team of ten consultants and expert witnesses at the Inquiry, which KCC now have to pay for along with a significant proportion of the two Parish Council’s costs as well.
The big loser in all this is the Kent Tax Payer, as a direct result of KCC Application Planning Department’s incompetence. Last year KCC paid out over £88,000 in opponents legal costs on Planning Judicial Reviews in Wrotham Parish alone, and will now no doubt be hit with bills of hundreds of thousands of pounds by the time all this is settled.
Meanwhile the loss to the Kent Council taxpayer continues to escalate, because solicitors acting for all parties need to submit their claims and then argue the merits of each in an attempt to agree final amounts. In the event that there is no agreement the claims have to be submitted to the Supreme Court Costs Office."
Now this is a pretty big story. Think of the extra costs that are not shown, all that officer and councillor time that has been wasted. Then the legal costs for both sides which have not yet been totalled but will be hundreds of thousands of pounds. It seems a pretty clear case of maladministration. I would have thought this would be quite a big media story, yet all I can find is this mild treatment of the story.
Up to half a million pounds of our money has been wasted. yet how many anodyne pieces are there in Kent on Sunday this week? Was it on a radio station?
What about some recognition for the heroic defiance of these parish councillors?
Cllr. Rayner, I salute you and your colleagues. Cllr. Rayner asked his deputy Cllr. Pete Gillin to sum up: (Can you imagine Paul Carter doing that?)
“KCC as the Planning Authority, allowed themselves to become far too close to a multi-national company who wanted to trade planning consent, in a highly protected area of Green Belt and Outstanding Natural Beauty, for a road that, if necessary, should be paid for by public funds; and now the Council Taxpayers of Kent are paying the price.”
Where are the resignations or apologies from Kent County Council?