Taxpayers in Northampton could foot a £600,000 bill if the Secretary of State gives the green light to two major housing development appeals outside the town.
Northampton Borough Council refused Bovis Homes’ bids to build 1,000 houses east of Hardingstone in May 2014 on a number of grounds – and just over six months later, it turned down another bid for another 1,000 properties at Collingtree.
Bovis appealed the council’s decision of both plans and planning inquiries were held for the respective appeals in 2015.
The Department for Communities and Local Government’s decision on whether to grant Bovis’s appeal for the Hardingstone bid is imminent, having first been expected on February 1.
But a paper set to go to Northampton Borough Council’s cabinet meeting on Wednesday predicts that if the council loses both appeals, it will have to pay legal costs of £656,000.
Cabinet member for regeneration, Councillor Tim Hadland said: “All the facts were examined by the planning inspectors for both of the appeals and we are not in a position to speculate the decisions of the appeals, which ultimately would be made by the secretary of state.”
Critics of the National Planning Policy Framework, the government’s guideline for deciding whether planning applications should be passed, say it makes it hard for councils to turn down clearly unpopular housing schemes on countryside land.
In Hardinsgtone, more than 1,500 letters of objection were received from village residents.
Daniel Punter, of the Hardingstone Action Group (HAG), said: “Doubling the size of Hardingstone would destroy our village identity and the plan would open the door for further developments that will swallow up villages until Northampton bumps into Milton Keynes.”
The decision on the Collingtree appeal is not expected until August.
But addressing the planning inquiry for the Collingtree scheme in December , borough councillor Jonathan Nunn (Con, Nene Valley) said: “The most immediate is the impact on the local road network, given that this development would undoubtedly be heavily reliant on car use, and just as unlikely to deliver the modal shift to other forms of transport use that so many other developments have hitherto failed to achieve.”