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King’s Lynn housing bid inquiry ‘cost council £50k’, report reveals

todayNovember 10, 2020 2

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A new report has revealed West Norfolk Council spent tens of thousands of pounds defending its decision to block hundreds of new homes on the edge of Lynn.

A government planning inspector gave the go-ahead for more than 600 new properties at Knights Hill in July, following a public inquiry.

And a paper to be presented to a meeting of the authority’s corporate performance panel tomorrow has set out the total cost to the taxpayer of £50,237 plus VAT.

Proposed areas for the development of 600 houses near Knights Hill.. (26974215)
Proposed areas for the development of 600 houses near Knights Hill.. (26974215)

One of the costs faced by the council was the booking of the Knights Barn complex at the Knights Hill Hotel for the inquiry which took place in January, nearly 10 months after members unanimously rejected the proposal at a packed planning committee meeting in March 2019.

But the report adds: “The major costs borne by the council were for expert witnesses and legal representation, which were required to put forward the council’s case at a public inquiry.

“Reasons for refusal (the council’s case) must be properly evidenced otherwise there is a risk of the council having an award of costs against it for unreasonable behaviour.

“In addition it should be noted that because the council’s own officers had recommended approval, external witnesses (consultants) had to be used.”

Councillors subsequently voted to drop one of the grounds for the original refusal, relating to traffic risks, after officials warned them they risked being held liable for legal bills of up to £500,000 if they continued to maintain that stance.

The decision, which was taken during a closed session in October 2019, prompted fury among opponents of the scheme who accused the council of betrayal.

But the new report says: “The appellants did not submit an application for costs against the council, on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour.”

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todayNovember 9, 2020 3