Council faces £40k bill for rejecting care home plans

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NORTH Tyneside Council is facing a legal bill of about £40,000 after a planning inspector ruled that it had been unreasonable in its refusal to grant consent for a care home.

The council has been ordered to pay costs by the Planning Inspectorate after being found to have relied on unsubstantiated and inaccurate claims to justify its stance.

Members of the authority’s planning committee twice rejected plans for the home, in Forest Hall’s Park Drive, despite the fact it would create 60 jobs and was recommended for approval by their officers.

Newcastle-based developer, DAV Developments, part of the Malhotra Group, can now press ahead with its plans, however, after winning an appeal against those decisions.

DAV Developments first submitted a planning application for the 39-bed care home in July last year.

A revised application, drawn up following discussions with planning officers, was submitted last December, but it was also dismissed, in May, supposedly because it would detract from the character of the area.

Planning inspector Kathleen Ellison criticised the council for relying on “unsupported assertions which were not always accurate” in repeatedly rejecting the plans.

She added: “The council failed to show reasonable planning grounds for its decision. I therefore find that unreasonable behaviour, resulting in unnecessary expense, has been demonstrated and that a full award of costs is justified.”

Meenu Malhotra, co-founder of the Malhotra Group, said: “We are delighted that our stance and persistence has been vindicated.

“We appreciated the professionalism shown by the council’s planning officers, who recommended approval of the plans on two occasions.

“However, the decisions by the council members to refuse both schemes have effectively deprived the area of 60 permanent jobs, as well as an average of 20 construction jobs during the 12-month build period.

“Additionally, the award of costs in our favour is a further burden on council taxpayers and is something, in these times of austerity, the members could have avoided had they taken the advice of their officers.”

Work is now due to start on the home next year.

A council spokesman said: “We are aware of the planning inspector’s ruling.

“The decision to refuse the application was made by the council’s planning committee, contrary to planning officers’ advice.”