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Council told to pay out £26,000 after developer wins appeal over Nottingham college site flats refusal

A Nottinghamshire council has been told to pay out £26,000 after a developer won an appeal over a rejected planning application.

Broxtowe Borough Council must pay the money to ALB Group after the authority rejected the company’s plans for 162 student flats.

Dozens of residents had objected to the proposals for the former Nottingham College campus on High Road, Chilwell.

The plans were recommended for approval by council officers – but they were deferred in July 2021 and then turned down by the council in September 2021.

The company appealed, and the Government has now ruled in its favour, saying the plans should go ahead and the council should pay ALB the costs the company made in launching the appeal.

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Following the decision, ALB Group has already announced a £20,000 donation to Nottingham actor Vicky McClure’s Our Dementia Choir, and says the other £6,000 will go towards local causes.

ALB Group said the named applicant behind the company and the plans, Arran Bailey, has donated the funds from his own pocket while the company awaits the final payment from Broxtowe Borough Council.

At the time of the appeal’s success in July 2022, the developer said the process took a “massive toll” on the company, which resulted in it having to let some members of staff go.

The exact amount of the resulting costs to the council were revealed during discussions in a planning meeting earlier this month.

Some Broxtowe councillors criticised the plans and supported residents who said the development would impact parking and lead to disturbance in the area.

But in backing ALB during the planning appeal, an inspector said there would be no such “demonstrable harm” from the development.

Councillor Philip Owen (Con), who is on the council planning committee, criticised the appeal process.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I am very disappointed that costs are awarded against the council in this way.

“We know our areas far better than any inspector who often sits in an office some distance from the application site and makes decisions that are going to affect the lives of many people.

“We rejected the initial application on grounds that it was over-intensification on the development of the site, that there would be parking problems and none of this seems to carry any weight with inspectors.”

Another phase of the site, for apartments and homes was approved at the council’s planning meeting earlier this month.

Chair of the committee councillor David Watts (Lib Dem) openly admitted he would “love” to turn this application down – but agreed that the plans would again likely be approved on appeal, incurring more costs for the council.

He said during the meeting: “It would give residents false hope when in reality I don’t think there is any and it would be an appalling waste of your council tax money.”

Details of a third and final phase for the site are yet to be revealed.

The planning inspector’s report on the appeal said: “On the main issues of the appeal, I have found that the proposal would not lead to demonstrable harm to the living conditions of neighbouring occupants though noise and disturbance or increased parking pressure in the area.

“I have noted the other concerns raised regarding the potential for anti-social behaviour and increased risk of crime. Much of this concern is based on assumptions about student behaviour.

“However, it is not clear from the evidence before me that these incidents are representative of the behaviour of the wider student populace, rather than isolated incidents by a small minority.”

Broxtowe Borough Council said it has received the bill but confirmed it has not yet paid out, saying it is doing “normal due diligence checks before we process payment”.

A Planning Inspectorate spokesperson said: “The Planning Inspectorate encourages people who may be affected by proposed development to take part in hearings and inquiries.

“Inspectors are independent and impartial. When making a decision the Inspector fully considers the evidence submitted at the appeal and takes account of current planning legislation, policy and guidance.”

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