Community Campaign Hart (CCH) incompetence over the Grove Farm/Netherhouse Copse planning application and behaviour about the Local Plan could cost Hart Council and taxpayers millions of pounds.
Impact of Hart Local Plan delays
First, the Hart Local Plan. Councillors were warned at their meeting last night that a delay to the Local Plan could cost Hart £2.4m in lost New Homes bonus in 2018/19. Of course it was Community Campaign Hart that forced a delay upon us at the LPSG meeting on Tuesday evening. However, there will be a meeting between the council leader and joint-CEOs on Monday 19 December to decide a way forward.
[Update: extract of minuted statement from joint-CEO]
Grove Farm/Netherhouse Copse Debacle
Now on to the Grove Farm/Netherhouse Copse planning application. This application was due to be determined at the planning meeting on Wednesday 14 December. The planning officers had recommended that planning permission be granted. CCH had intended to refuse the application, but did not follow the correct procedure. They voted instead on a motion to simply delay the determination of the application for further transport studies.
The effect of this is now that the application is ‘not determined’. The developers could appeal the application on grounds on non-determination in the required time. There is a strong likelihood that Hart would lose this appeal.
Even if they manage to fudge this problem and issue a notice of refusal, it is still highly likely the developers will appeal the decision anyway because the officers recommended approval. Realistically, it is likely Hart would lose the appeal.
Financial Impact of Community Campaign Hart Incompetence
The costs of running an appeal are approximately £200K. However, there is a real risk that the Inspector would also grant costs to the developers of a further £200K.
But the costs don’t stop there. New rules mean that if houses end up getting approved on appeal, then the council in question loses the New Homes Bonus on those houses. Councils typically receive around £4,000 per dwelling over a period of six years. So loss of the bonus on the 423 houses in the Grove Farm application could end up costing over £1.6m on top of around £400K in appeal costs.
CCH councillor loses seat on Hart Planning Committee
As a final denouement, it was announced that recent defector to CCH, Richard Woods would lose his seat on the Planning Committee and be replaced by Steve Forster. This is to maintain the correct party balance on the Committee.
It is supremely ironic that the councillor who said that he wanted to:
do what the people who entrusted you with their vote would want you to do to represent them in the fullest possible way
has now lost the very seat on the Committee that gave him the means to represent his voters
In the words of Mumford and Sons:
‘It was your Hart on the line,
You really f****d it up this time’.