Northampton taxpayers hit by £463,000 bill for successful legal challenge to build 1,000 new homes

The fight that failed to stop developers building 1,000 homes, a school, retail outlets and a medical centre just outside Northampton has cost the taxpayer close to half a million pounds.

Wednesday, 16th March 2016, 6:30 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th March 2016, 9:44 am
Posters in Hardingstone village protested about the proposed 1,000 new houses. But the protests amounted to nothing after the the communities secretary granted the appeal to build them.

Northampton Borough Council turned down the Homes and Communities Agency’s (HCA) bid for the homes and amenities just outside of Hardinsgtone in May 2014, because of fears it would clog up the roads and destroy an area of countryside

But last week the Secretary of State upheld the HCA’s appeal - stating the council could not have turned it down as it could not demonstrate having enough homes to cater for its growing population over the next five years.

Early predictions had suggested losing the appeal would cost the council around £300,000 in legal costs.

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But a paper due to go to an “extraordinary” planning committee at the Guildhall next week states the council has actually spent £463,000 fighting the HCA homes appeal.

And the report reveals that the spend could have been much worse had the HCA applied for its share of the legal costs.

The papers state: “The total costs incurred by the council in defending the appeal amounted to £463,826.83.

“The HCA agreed not to make an application for costs against the council.

“Had they made a successful application for costs, the council’s bill would have been considerably higher.”

The council spent the money hiring a “leading planning QC,” supported by “junior counsel” to fight a nine-day planning inquiry last June.

It also “engaged a team of experienced expert witnesses to provide evidence on planning, landscape 
and transport issues.”

There were further costs for accommodation, particularly hiring Franklin Gardens for the planning inquiry last June, as well as printing and courier costs.

When considering the HCA is also taxpayer owned the overall public cost of the housing appeal could be close to £1 million, though the agency has not revealed how much it has spent fighting its appeal yet.

The decision to allow the homes came as a crushing blow to the residents of Hardingstone who have campaigned for nearly three years to halt the proposals.

More than 1,500 wrote in letters of objection to the plans and several gave heartfelt speeches at the June planning inquiry.