Eastbourne Borough Council has paid developers more than £78,000 in planning appeal costs since 2010, a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed.
The request, sent out by property consultancy Daniel Watney LLP, found that between 2010 and 2016 the planning authority had paid out costs of £78,533 on five overturned appeals where the Planning Inspectorate ruled it had acted ‘unreasonably’.
The figures show the largest single claim was made in 2013/14, when the council paid £30,610.77 to developers.
In response to the figures a spokesman for the council said: "Eastbourne is a jewel in the crown of the south coast. It is Eastbourne Borough Council’s role as the local planning authority to ensure this remains the case. These figures show that the claims of this nature in Eastbourne are very low in frequency, approximately one per year, and the costs highlighted are modest in comparison to those being met by many other authorities.
"However, while any appeal costs are regrettable, Eastbourne Borough Council will continue to scrutinise and, when necessary, challenge development in the town that is considered inappropriate."
The figures reveal that other planning authorities in Sussex have also had to pay out costs on lost planning appeals, including Wealden District Council which has paid out on six appeals since 2010, totaling £20,840.75.
A spokesman for Wealden District Council said: “Wealden is one of the busiest planning authorities the country. When making a decision which goes against officers’ recommendations, planning committee members are always advised about the likelihood of such a decision being seen as ‘unreasonable’ resulting in it being overturned at appeal and the costs awarded against the council.
“However the final decision in such cases is always left to the elected councillors who decide it in a democratic way.”
Elsewhere Horsham District Council paid out £442,969 on seven appeals, which all took place between 2014 and this year. Rother District Council meanwhile paid out £10,857.36 on four appeals.
In all, Watney LLP says, local authorities across England paid out more than £12 million in costs on overturned planning appeals since 2010.
Charles Mills, partner and head of planning at Daniel Watney LLP, warns the figure would be far higher if it was not for the ‘onerous’ process for costs applications. He said: “When you go through a planning appeal, you make an application of costs to the Inspector at the time of the appeal but many won’t necessarily do that.
”For that to be successful you have to be able to show that the local authority has acted unreasonably, which there isn’t a specific test for. It is quite an onerous task to demonstrate that a local authority has been unreasonable during the process.”
“In addition planning appeal inspectors, understandably in a period of cuts to local council budgets, appear to only be willing to allow costs against councils in the most extreme cases.”
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