Planning Bill

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Clause 162

Fees for appeals
Robert Neill: I beg to move amendment No. 425, in clause 162, page 91, line 40, after ‘(2)’, insert
‘Except for an appeal under section 78 of this Act or section 20 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 against the failure of a local planning authority to take a planning decision,’.
I shall be brief. It is unjust to expect applicants to pay the local authority a fee when they are making the appeal only because the local authority failed to take a decision in the first place. It is a non-determination scenario and it is not equitable to expect the applicants to fork out on that basis. The amendment is designed to deal with that situation.
Mr. Dhanda: I sympathise with what I perceive to be the underlying sentiment of the hon. Gentleman’s argument: that people should not have to pay for an appeal because a local authority fails to act. Although the Government cannot accept the amendment, our intention is to transfer part of the cost of running the appeals service, from the general taxpayer to those who might benefit. That principle is applicable, whatever the reason for an appeal or its eventual outcome.
7 pm
Robert Neill: I am sorry, but I cannot accept the Minister’s reasoning. To my mind it is thoroughly unjust, whatever the reason, to expect an applicant to bear the cost of an appeal that they did not bring about. If the local authority fails to act, it is the local authority and the public purse that should bear the burden.
Mr. Dhanda: If there is evidence that a local authority has acted unreasonably, which I think is the hon. Gentleman’s point, and it has done so in a non-determination case, the applicant can seek an award of costs from the Planning Inspectorate. The Planning Inspectorate intends to adopt a rigorous approach to such cases, to ensure that appellants are not unfairly penalised. I therefore believe that we can meet the objectives of the amendment and propose that it is rejected. At the same time, however, the principle of the clause is important.
Mr. Llwyd: I thank the Minister for giving way, I know that the hour is rather late. Not so long ago—probably 10 or 12 years ago—the then Government introduced a measure that would allow the applicant in a successful planning appeal to recover his or her costs in full, emulating what the courts understand as “costs follow the event”. In one of the first awards of that kind in north Wales, I was responsible for acting for the appellant—I am not bragging, but pointing out that this measure winds the whole thing back. A person might now appeal against an action by the local authority, which might not be an unreasonable action but an action that is found to be invalid by the appeal tribunal. If the appellant then wins the appeal on ordinary grounds, without any unreasonable action by the other side, that appellant will have to bear his or her own costs. I am left dumbfounded by that idea, to be honest.
Mr. Dhanda: I think that I have made clear the circumstances in which an applicant could get their money back, but at the same time the system must be sustainable to deal with the number of appeals currently in the system. The appellant has something to gain if they have paid to have their appeal and are successful. I appreciate that we have had a consensual afternoon, but we might have to agree to disagree on this particular issue.
Robert Neill: We will consider what has been said. I am still very unhappy, as is the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy. I am not seeking to get through the whole afternoon without a Division for the sake of it; we are close to pressing the amendment to a Division because we are unhappy with the principle of the proposal. When an applicant does not have any control over whether the planning authority determines or not, they should not have to run the risk of forking out for an appeal, in the hope that they can then claim the costs back. That is wrong, and unless there is further movement we will pursue the matter further on Report. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 162 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Watts.]
Adjourned accordingly at four minutes past Seven o’clock till Thursday 31 January at Nine o’clock.
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