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District council to offer £1.4m to settle costs of planning appeal won by Stansted Airport operator

Uttlesford District Council is to make a Part 36 Offer to Stansted Airport Limited (STAL) of £1.4m in full and final settlement of planning appeal costs.

The local authority had already settled and paid the costs of an unsuccessful High Court challenge to the inspector’s grant of permission. However, the costs of the original planning appeal remained outstanding.

A paper presented by the council’s chief executive, Peter Holt, last week (15 June) requested that authority be given to make a payment on account of the offer in the sum of £1m direct to STAL.

The council was also asked to agree that, should STAL reject the offer, the chief executive be authorised to propose to STAL that the matter is dealt with via mediation.

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The report said the final settlement sum would need to be paid from reserves.

The background to the Part 36 offer was that STAL submitted on 22 February 2018 a planning application for works and to substantially extend passenger numbers (to 43 million a year).

That application was refused by the council’s Planning Committee on 20 January 2020.

On 24 July 2020 STAL submitted an appeal against the committee’s decision.

The Planning Inspectorate heard STAL’s appeal over 30 days between 12 January and 12 March 2021. The inspectors found in STAL’s favour by order dated 26 May 2021.

Uttlesford subsequently challenged the inspectors’ decision in the High Court, which was dismissed on 1 October 2021.

The council resolved on 6 October 2021 to accept the High Court’s decision without seeking further leave to challenge, “and to accept that this battle had ended”, the chief executive's report noted.

STAL’s legal costs of that High Court challenge were assessed by the Court and have been paid. However, payment by the authority of STAL’s costs of the original planning appeal remained outstanding and it was those costs that were subject of this report.

The chief executive’s report to council disclosed to councillors in Part 2 the precise sum being claimed by STAL.

Uttlesford had engaged a specialist costs lawyer to advise and following correspondence between the council and STAL’s respective lawyers, and an in depth analysis of the claim by the costs lawyer appointed for the council the £1.4m offer was advised.

The BBC has reported that the handling of the Stansted Airport appeal is currently being investigated by the council's scrutiny committee.

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