Planning appeals cost the public purse £48k
By Chris Young Taxpayers had to fork out more than £48,000 to developers in 2011 after Government inspectors overturned 35 planning decisions.
Recently released figres show the impact of planning appeals on Cheshire East Council.
While the authority was successful in defending the majority of its decisions, those it did lose have hit the public purse.
In one case the council had to pay a developer more than £4,200 because it did not produce a legal document for a proposed Congleton housing estate fast enough.
The report on last year ’s appeals also showed which reasons for refusal had fallen apart at the appeals stage.
The most likely refusal reasons to be thrown out by an inspector are “loss of privacy or light to a neighbour,” “impact of the character and appearance of the area” and
“impact on the open countryside”.
In a bid to cut the number of appeals, planning officers and committees will now be dissuaded from refusing applications for frivolous reasons.
Anyone who submits a planning application to the council has the right to appeal a refusal. A Government-appointed inspector would then look at the council’s decision, and if they overturned it, could force the authority to pay any legal costs.
Last year the council fought 122 appeals, winning 87 (71%) of them. It lost 35 (28.7%), and in eight of these cases costs were awarded against the council. They amounted to £48,409.
In another case Cheshire East was forced to pay Wainhome Developments £4,202 after council lawyers failed to complete documents required so that work on a housing development off Canal Road in Congleton, could begin.
The authority also had to pay McInerney Homes £15,591 after it successfully appealed the council’s decision to refuse plans for 14 houses in Wrenbury. The refusal was on the basis that there were more suitable sites in the village, but a planning inspector said the council didn’t back this up with any proof.
Other reasons the council had to pay up was for refusing an equestrian site in Wybunbury despite support from the British Horse Society (£2,589) and for refusing a waste company to continue operating on a site in Bridgemere for claims it would create pollution and odour — claims an inspector dismissed as baseless (£14,613).
A report detailing the appeals was presented to the council’s Strategic Planning Board yesterday (Wednesday).
It said the committee should “seek to reduce costs made against the council by reducing the number of unnecessary overturns, ensuring legal and appeal matters are dealt with efficiently and that reasons for refusal are sound and evidenced.”
Discussing the refusal reasons that did not stand up at appeal, the report said: “It is clear the council needs to be vigilant in these policy areas to ensure that this does not become the case. In particular, i t indicates there is a need to assess the impact of a scheme on the character and appearance of an area very carefully. Officers have been informed to ensure this happens.”
● See editorial on page 22.
The Chronicle, Thursday, 9th February, 2012. www.chronicleseries.co.uk 5
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Think twice before owning bird of prey, RSPCA warns
A wildlife centre is caring for nine birds of prey that were bred and raised as pets and then thought to have been dumped.
As a result the RSPCA has warned people to do their research efore considering owing such pets ecause of the care they need.
Three barn owls, two Harris hawks, two buzzards, a lanner falcon — which was found in Congleton — and an eagle owl were taken to RSPCA’s Stapeley Grange in Nantwich, for help after eing found in an injured, sick or lethargic condition.
They were all bred as domestic ets and must have been either abandoned by their owners or escaped. Most were likely to have died if they had not been rescued.
The birds have very specialist needs which makes finding suita-
le new homes very difficult.
The Lanner falcon was found in a garden in Congleton, on 21st January in a very weak state. It was not injured but was unable to fly and was wearing leather jesses straps that showed it was a domestic bird, but had not been ringed.
It is unknown whether it had een dumped or escaped.
Lee Stewart, centre manager, said: “All the birds were struggling to survive.
“One of the buzzards had lost all balance and kept falling on its face, one of the barn owls had flown straight into a car and the eagle owl was discovered in the middle of a path with its wing hanging down.
“People may dump these birds when they realise they can’t look after them. For some it may be a consequence of current financial times as these birds can cost a lot to keep, especially when you consider veterinary bills.
“For others personal circumstances may have changed, such as having children or moving house.
“Whatever the reason — they
The falcon found in Congleton.
are just let go and can be very difficult to rehome afterwards as they need very specialist care.”
Mr Stewart added: “We would always recommend that anyone who owned a bird of prey get them ringed so that should they escape, they can be traced.”
The RSPCA is warning owners to do their research before taking on these type of birds as pets, as otherwise animals may end up abandoned after people realise their care is more than they can manage.
Animals which have been bred in captivity can struggle to adapt if they suddenly find themselves having to fend for themselves in the wild.
Birds of prey can have a large wing span and flying is a fundamental natural behaviour so aviaries should be built with enough space for the bird in its adult size to fly. They also need to be given free flying time out of the enclosure, fed suitable food and taken to a specialist avian vet.
Legally, they can only be kept as pets if they are captive-bred as under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is an offence to take any wild bird and put it into captivity. Some birds of prey also need to be registered if kept in captivity.
The eagle owl was found in the middle of a bridleway near Manchester Airport; one Harris hawk was found by a member of the public in their garden in Walsall and a second was found in a garden in Wolverhampton; one barn owl was found on a private garden gate post in Holywell, North Wales, while another flew into the path of a vehicle in Stalybridge. A third was found by a dog walker in woods near his home in Buckley, North Wales.
One buzzard was found in Nottingham and is part of an on-going legal case, while another buzzard was found in woods, also in Holywell.
The 146,000 motorists who use the M6 between junctions nine and 10 each day are to benefit from improved driving conditions.
Overnight resurfacing work, costing an estimated £1.5m, started yesterday (Wednesday) and is expected to last four weeks, subject to favourable weather conditions.
All lanes on the 1.8-mile stretch in both directions will have targeted sections of resurfacing, including the hard shoulder, which recently opened to traffic as an additional lane during peak periods to reduce congestion, under the Highways Agency’s “managed motorway” initiative.
The work will take place between 10pm and 6am and will be completed using mainly one or two lane closures, although some full overnight closures will be required to complete the work.
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