Costs award made in favour of Rule 6 party

Through a costs decision dated 13 February 2024, the Secretary of State has exceptionally ordered costs to be paid to a Rule 6 Party, Oakham Action, in respect of a section 78 planning appeal that had been withdrawn by the Appellant in July 2023. NPPG costs guidance notes that costs awards in favour of interested parties are not anticipated “other than in exceptional circumstances”.

The appeal was for outline planning permissions (with all matters reserved except for access) for residential development of up to 500 dwellings and associated works on land known as “The Lookout” in the Barleythorpe and Oakham area in Rutland.

Oakham Action was granted Rule 6 status in December 2022 and took a full and active role in the inquiry procedure, producing evidence on planning, landscape and highways matters. An 8-day inquiry was scheduled to open on 28 February 2023. On 16 February, the Secretary of State made an EIA screening decision (following a request made on behalf of Oakham Action) that the proposed development was EIA development and needed to be accompanied by an Environmental Statement (“ES”). The February inquiry was, therefore, adjourned.

In April 2023, the Appellant indicated that it anticipated submitting an ES within the next 2-3 months, following which a resumed inquiry was scheduled for November 2023. But on 4 July the Appellant notified all parties that it had decided to withdraw the appeal without providing any reasons for doing so. Subsequently, in its costs response, the Appellant gave four reasons for the late withdrawal:

1.     The need for an ES (arguing that it did not have sufficient information or time in which to prepare one);

2. Uncertainty whether the appeal would be determined by the Inspector or Secretary of State (the Appellant had threatened judicial review proceedings following a decision in January 2023 to recover the appeal, and the recovery question remained outstanding);

3.     The fact that the local planning authority had published an update to its 5 year housing land supply in May 2023;

4.     The fact that the Appellant had received an update on the draft local plan timetable in July 2023 confirming that the Regulation 18 preferred options would be published in autumn 2023.

The Secretary of State found that none of these reasons amounted to a material change in circumstances that was relevant to the substantive planning issues. On all the evidence available, the Appellant had shown no “good reason” for the withdrawal. Costs were awarded for all costs arising after the Inspectorate’s initial start letter for the appeal.

Charles Felgate, who heads up the planning and environment team at Geldards represented Oakham Action. Merrow Golden of Francis Taylor Buildings was instructed and expert assistance was given by Aspbury Planning, Bancroft Consulting and Influence Environmental.

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