Back in September last year, someone applied for planning permission in South Fambridge for “reinstatement of ferry crossing, together with ancillary car parking”. Basically the people involved wanted to operate a? boat service between South Fambridge and North Fambridge, carrying a maximum of 12 passengers. This also included providing a grasscrete hardstanding large enough? for 40? vehicles, a perimeter fence, and low -level lighting.
This was refused – on the grounds that the applicant hadn’t arranged?suitable wildlife/ endangered species surveys, so there was a lack of?information about the likely impact of the application.? The applicant appealed to a government inspector – and has recently lost that appeal . The inspector thinks the refusal was correct and wrote:
14. In regarding the purpose of conserving biodiversity, whilst there may not be significant adverse impacts on the designated sites, this does not overcome the substantial lack of information in terms of protected species on, or near to, the site which may be affected by the proposal. For the reasons given above, I therefore conclude that the appeal should be dismissed.
However , that’s not the end of the story. The applicant also appealed for costs against the council. Now, even though an applicant has lost an appeal he or she can still be granted costs – if the inspector thinks the council has acted unreasonably. In this case the inspector has decided to award costs against the council because he thinks the council has taken an unreasonably long time dealing with the application. The inspector writes:
The facts are that the application was submitted to the Council in September 2014, with a target date of 19 November 2014. The applicant was advised it would go to committee in December 2014. It did not, owing to internal changes and demands at the Council. On 13 May 2015, well after either target date, the proposal was recommended for refusal, with a decision issued on 21 May 2015. Even though the appeal site is within or close to a European designated site (known as Natura 2000), the Crouch and Roach Estuaries Special Protection Area (SPA) which is also listed as a Ramsar site, the Crouch and Roach Estuaries Special Areas of Conservation, and the Crouch and Roach Estuaries Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) Natural England were not consulted until 18 May 2015, and a response given after the application was determined. All told, about five months separate the December 2014 committee date and the determination of the application, with little evidence that the Council sought to keep the applicant informed of its progress….
….Had this been communicated earlier to the applicant they could have undertaken the surveys during Spring 2015, and this could reasonably have meant that either appeal could have been avoided altogether, or identified for certain whether the scheme was acceptable on local biodiversity grounds. The failure by the Council to convey these concerns in a timely manner, and five months seems to be extraordinarily long time for comments received in October 2014 to be actioned, is unreasonable and has resulted in wasted and unnecessary costs for the appellant in submitting an appeal which may reasonably have been avoided by undertaking surveys in Spring 2015…
….IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Rochford District Council shall pay to Mr D Adams, the costs of the appeal proceedings described in the heading of this decision.
You can download the inspectors appeal decision and costs decision here.
In its defence the council seems to have talked about “re-organisation and restructuring to meet the challenge of reduced resources”