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Claimant ordered to pay council £17k in costs over "hopeless" arguments in planning case

The High Court has awarded the London Borough of Barnet costs of £16,969.90 against a resident described by Mr Justice Julian Knowles as having pursued a “hopeless” planning case.

In Harrison, R (On the Application Of) v London Borough of Barnet [2021] EWHC 2789 (Admin) the judge said there were exceptional reasons for the costs awards because: “Most if not all of the claimant's arguments were not just devoid of merit, but can properly be labelled hopeless.

“They had been rejected in round terms by the single judge and some of them dismissed as 'bare, unparticularised allegations', an assessment I agree with.”

The judge assessed Barnet’s costs of the hearing at £9831.30 and its cost in preparing the acknowledgement of service at £7138.60.

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The interested parties had gained planning consent for two three-storey residential buildings adjacent to the claimant’s property, where she holds a 20-year lease for a garage.

The claimant objected to the planning consent and said the application had been defective and so Barnet should have rejected it.

She argued that the first section of the application form was invalid as it showed the site address as ‘39 Flower Lane’ rather than '39a/b'.

"She wisely abandoned this point orally,” the judge said. "The address was specified correctly elsewhere on the form, in the officers' report, in the decision, and no-one was in any doubt about the address of the plot.”

The claimants also said the applicants had wrongly applied under their trading name but the judge said there was nothing incorrect in this.

Julian Knowles J also dismissed objections concerning rights of way and noted: “The claimant's detailed grounds and skeleton argument makes other criticisms of the form but it is not necessary to say more than that they are not arguable either.”

He also rejected her claim that planners misled the planning committee and that the grant of permission conflicted with the Public Sector Equality Duty over a driveway used by an adjacent autism care centre.

“There is no merit to this submission,” the judge said.”Equality and diversity were covered in section 6 of the officers' report. The driveway and entrance is long and established and there is, and was no evidence, about any impact on users of the centre.”

The judge added that there was no basis for the claimant's accusations of bad faith or bias on the part of Barnet's officers.

Mark Smulian

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