Over the past 2 weeks, Headley Parish Council (HPC) has been undertaking targeted research into the practicality of leading a Statutory Review into the recent Planning Appeal which gave permission for a development of 70 houses at Headley Court.
At an Extra Ordinary Meeting on Friday 9th December, HPC reviewed the information and professional advice it had received and concluded that pursuing the case would entail an unacceptable financial risk to the Council and ultimately the residents of Headley.
Parish Council Chair, Councillor David Preedy, explains: “As a small Parish Council, Headley does not have the resources to fund a legal process on its own, so we would need donations or crowd-funding. Even with crowd-funding allowing many residents to make smaller donations, the scale of funding needed would depend on a few residents being prepared to make substantial donations.
“We established that the identities of people donating £3,000 or more must legally be disclosed and we were advised that this requirement would deter likely substantial donors from contributing. So proceeding with the legal process would create a major financial risk to the Council, not just to meet our own legal bills, but also to pay £10,000 of third-party costs if we lost the case.
“Our professional advice was that the high bar of proving an ‘error in law’ means that our case is unlikely to be successful and that, even if it were to succeed, it might well be a pyrrhic victory – the case might very well be remitted to the same Inspector who might reach the same conclusion.
“Based on this information, the Parish Council decided unanimously not to proceed with the Statutory Review. We would be happy to hand over the information we have received if another group of local residents wishes to take the case up separately at their own risk.
“The Parish Council recognises the frustration within the community at the way that this Planning Appeal was determined behind closed doors without a public hearing. We had written to the Planning Inspector asking for a Public Hearing in line with Government Guidance. We intend to submit a formal complaint to the Planning Inspectorate, but we know that this cannot reverse the decision.”
As a Parish Council, any financial shortfall would have to be recovered from residents through their Council Tax. The potential liability of up to £50,000 would be equivalent to an average additional Council Tax payment of £200 for every household in the Parish.