Council to fork out thousands of pounds for ‘unreasonably’ refusing Pagham homes behind hotel

Arun District Council is preparing to fork out up to £26,000 in costs after being told it had acted ‘unreasonably’ in turning down a planning application.

The application, for nine homes to the rear of the Inglenook Hotel, Pagahm, was refused by members of the development control committee in March 2020, against the advice of planning officers.

At a meeting of the corporate policy & performance committee on Thursday (June 17), councillors were told that negotiations with the applicant were ongoing and a provisional figure of just under £26,000 was being discussed.

The application was turned down because of road safety concerns.

After reviewing the evidence, a planning inspector held no such concerns and accused the council of ‘unreasonable behaviour’.

In the decision report they added: “In determining the application the council received technical and detailed highway safety information from the appellant, West Sussex County Council officers and an independent transport report and road safety audit commissioned by the council.

“These professionals all concluded that the proposed development would not be harmful to highway safety.

“Committee members are not bound by this advice, and I accept that they have important local knowledge.

“However, in this case the extensive professional evidence from both main parties prior to the determination of the application indicates that this application should have been permitted.”

Not everyone was happy with the decision.

Karl Roberts, director of place, told the meeting that a third party had been in touch suggesting the council call for a judicial review – but the legal department felt there were no legal grounds to do so.

Others were unhappy that the committee had refused the application in the first place.

Andy Cooper (Con, Angmering & Findon) said: “There are lessons to be learned, not just from officers but by the whole of development control, on accepting officer advice and ensuring that this council is robust when we make decisions.

“Every single decision this council makes should be robust.

“I personally am not happy that a decision has not been robust enough to stand itself against an inspector. It’s costing us money, which is costing the whole of the district money.”

The committee recommended that the full council approve up to £26,000 to cover the costs.

The next meeting of the full council will be held on July 14.