Developer Persimmon Homes lodged the appeal after a Leeds City Council planning panel last month rejected a recommendation from council officers to give the controversial development at Daisy Hill the go-ahead.
Now the council’s chief planning officer is telling councillors meeting to discuss the appeal next week that the council could end up with costs being awarded against it if the appeal is contested.
The housing development has faced significant opposition from local residents, the action group Morley Against Reckless Construction (MARC) and Morley Town Council.
And councillors on the city’s old plans panel (East) decided in September that they couldn’t back the development either because they believed the scheme was not sustainable – the local infrastructure – schools, health, public transport, drainage – couldn’t cope.
In a report going to next week’s meeting, the chief planning officer warns that none of the councillors’ objections would hold water at a Planning Inspectorate appeal. The application meets all of the council’s “policy tests”, the report says.
“Members (councillors) are advised it is difficult to justify sustainability as a grounds for refusal. Where the policy test has been met it is extremely difficult to justify a refusal…”, it says.
“The Council risks an award of costs by contesting the planning appeal on grounds which cannot be substantiated,” it adds. Costs could also be awarded if it could be demonstrated that the council has acted unreasonably.
In 2011, the council ended up with legal bills running into tens of thousands of pounds after it lost a series of appeals brought by developers who were refused planning permission to build on greenfield land.
Following those expensive defeats the council changed its policy and released a substantial number of greenfield sites (known as Phase 2 and 3 sites) for development, including the site at Daisy Hill.
In a further twist to the story, it just so happens that following a recent reorganisation of the council’s planning panels it is a different set of councillors on a different planning panel that is going to discuss what to do about the appeal next week.
The chief planning officer sees this coincidental personnel change as an opportunity to minimise the risk of costs.
“Members are strongly recommended to indicate that they would have approved the application had they been in a position to do so,” the report says. “It is considered that this will serve to help the Council in defending against any claim that the Council has acted unreasonably.”