Fenland Council may be forced to pick up the bill after calling off objections at the 11th hour

By John Elworthy FENLAND Council threw in the towel at a planning inquiry and now faces stumping up legal costs of between �10,000 -�15,000. The council made an 11th hour bid to halt last week s public inquiry at March Town Hall after back tracking on th

By John Elworthy

FENLAND Council threw in the towel at a planning inquiry and now faces stumping up legal costs of between �10,000 -�15,000.

The council made an 11th hour bid to halt last week's public inquiry at March Town Hall after back tracking on their refusal to grant a certificate of lawful use to Post Mill Farm, Benwick Road, Doddington.

Owner Edna Franks wanted the certificate to enable her to renovate and modernise the house which has been in her family for decades.


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However Fenland planners refused to grant the certificate claiming there was "no evidence of occupation of the property for 10 years up to the point of application".

Mrs Franks appealed and at a record breaking 50 minute inquiry last Tuesday the council acknowledged they were wrong not to issue the certificate and their case collapsed. The inspector will now determine costs.

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Bill Tilley, a Fenland planning officer, tendered his apologies to the Franks family for the earlier decision of the council.

Planning agent Mark Vawser said the certificate was to ensure the family could one day restore it.

"It's a very old dwelling and has been unoccupied for 15 years but they want to keep it in the family and needed some assurances that the council wouldn't change their mind once they decide to modernise it," he said.

"We needed some confidence and had provided proof of evidence of the history of the house."

Mike Kelly, a principal planning solicitor from Hewitson's of Cambridge had previously tried to explain to Fenland Council that the law allowed Mrs Franks to receive such a certificate.

"It was quite a record breaking opening and closing for an inquiry," he said. "Officers told us at 4.30pm the night before they were not going to contest the certificate. By then the inspector was already on his way and it was too late.

"My main job then was to show the council acted unreasonably and the appellant, my client, had been forced to spend costs unnecessarily.

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