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Resident calls for apology to taxpayers after Babergh District Council confirms outlay of £60,000 on pair of planning inquiry defeats

Almost £60,000 was spent by Babergh District Council on a pair of High Court cases, in which the authority was twice defeated for failing to provide reasons for approving a housing development.

Conservative planning committee chairman Peter Beer confirmed that the council had incurred costs of £59,586.58 across two separate judicial reviews in June 2018 and July 2019, relating to the committee’s approval of plans to build six homes off Lawshall Road in Hartest.

In both cases, the High Court sided with claimant Clive Gare that the council failed to explain its decision, and that the circumstances around the proposed development site, which had a similar plan rejected in 2016, meant there was sufficient grounds to expect reasons should be given.

Babergh District Council, Endeavour House (20332935)
Babergh District Council, Endeavour House (20332935)

The costs were revealed at a meeting on Tuesday night, in response to a question by Boxford resident David Lamming, who also asked what lessons the planning committee had learned from this pair of costly court defeats, stating the costs from the second case arose from the same error as the first.

Mr Lamming, of Holbrook Barn Road, said: “Members of the public – in particular, Babergh council taxpayers – might justifiably consider that a public apology is due.

“One might have adapted Oscar Wilde – losing one case is a misfortune, losing two on the same grounds looks like carelessness.”

Cllr Beer also said the district council’s full in-house costs relating to the two cases would not be possible to quantify.

Addressing the issue of what the authority had learned, he added: “Certainly, I think my planning committee members take it very seriously when planning applications come in front of them.

“They are well aware that the costs can go considerably high, but they are duty bound to weigh it up in the best way they feel they should do.

“I hope the lesson learned by my fellow planning committee members is that be sure you’ve got it correct, that you know what you’re voting on, and that you have the evidence to justify your decision.”

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