Planning rows cost Stoke-on-Trent City Council £120,000
MORE than £120,000 has been spent by a council to defend challenges to its planning decisions.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council has successfully fought 64 of 101 appeals against planning committee verdicts in the last five years.
But figures show the authority spent £24,000 examining appeals and changed its mind on 37 decisions after protests.
A further four cases were taken to full public inquiries.
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The bulk of the council's appeal costs were swallowed up by an inquiry demanded by the Secretary of State into Tesco's plans to double the size of its supermarket in Trent Vale in 2010.
The council approved the plan and spent £90,000 hiring a barrister to argue its case, but permission was withdrawn.
It comes as the Government relaxes strict planning laws to make it easier for homeowners and businesses to extend properties.
Costly appeals are expected to be reduced as the new system allows many small-scale developments without planning permission being needed. Most of the successful appeals relate to food takeaways which councillors turn down under pressure from residents, often against advice from planning officers.
Other successful appeals against rejected planning applications include a bid by Diva's Delights, in Hartshill Road, Hartshill, to extend its opening hours.
Councillor Tom Reynolds, chairman of the development management committee, said: "We always try to take officers' recommendations on board but the whole reason applications come before us is so we can achieve a balancing act.
"It's right that we defend our view when people take these things to appeal and unfortunately there is a cost attached to that.
"The Government's recent announcements are ridiculous, frankly.
"They are allowing a planning free-for-all which will have negative consequences for many residents affected by gargantuan extensions to neighbouring properties. It will have minimal impact on the economy."
Building surveyor Daniel Arnold, of Meir, said: "The planning process is very rigid and if a committee turns down an application from somebody who knows what they're doing there is often quite rightly an appeal.
"I'd expect the number of appeals to start coming down because it basically looks like a lot more developers won't even have to apply in the first place."
The city council said it was now preparing for the Government's changes, which are designed to support business expansion and encourage residents to build things like conservatories and loft extensions.
Under the new system, the size of extensions allowed without permission will be doubled to about 20 feet for terraced properties and 26 feet for detached.
Councillor Ruth Rosenau, whose cabinet role includes planning, said: "The changes to the way authorities handle planning issues is something we're already addressing.
"We've outlined how we want to make planning services easier and quicker for residents, and potential investors."