Council ordered to pay costs after “unreasonable” delay in Bedford borough planning decision

A Government inspector has ordered the council to pay costs to a man for its “unreasonable” delays in making a planning decision.

By David Tooley, local democracy reporter
Wednesday, 20th May 2020, 3:45 pm

Dominic Batchelor was so fed up with waiting for Bedford Council to decide on his application to build a two-bed bungalow in Gold Street, Riseley, that he appealed to the Planning Inspectorate.

Mr Batchelor had applied to the council for planning permission on March 1, 2019 and the deadline for a decision was set for April 26, 2019. He wanted to build it in the back garden of an end-of-terrace property.

Planning inspector Anne Denby said that the council had not asked for more time before the appeal was lodged on October 24, 2019.

The borough council HQ in Bedford

“From the evidence before me,” she wrote in her decision letter dated May 19 (Tuesday), “It appears that the extent of the delay and lack of communication was sufficient to constitute unreasonable behaviour on the part of the council and that behaviour has led to the necessity for the applicant to register an appeal.”

She said that the council should have explained its situation to Mr Batchelor.

The council told the inspector that the delay was due to “resource pressures” but it did not provide any more information to the inspector.

“Whilst I appreciate that resource pressures can cause delays in delivering timely decisions it is incumbent on the council, as the local planning authority, to fulfil its planning function without unreasonable delay,” she ruled.

In ordering the council to pay his costs, Mr Batchelor has been invited to send details to the council “with a view to reaching agreement”.

It was a bitter-sweet win for Mr Batchelor however as the planning inspector decided that he was not allowed to build the bungalow.

She concluded that the “scheme would result in unacceptable harm to the character and appearance of the site and surrounding area”.

And she added that while the building would add to the housing supply, she did not consider that to be enough to outweigh the harm it would cause to its surroundings.