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Gloucestershire Business News

BREAKING: Taxpayers to foot bill for council's Bow Farm appeal loss

Costs of £180,000 will have to be paid by Gloucestershire County Council after it lost an appeal against a 160-acre quarry at Bow Farm near Twyning.

Gravel magnate Moreton Cullimore has been awarded the pay out by the Planning Inspectorate to cover his "unnecessary expenses" for the four month appeal case.

Council officers revealed yesterday there was no budget for a loss of this kind and the payment would result in an overspend in the budget.

But councillors on the planning commitee said they had "no regrets" and would make the same decision again to try and protect residents and the planet.

Cllr Chris McFarling (Green, Sedbury) called for the Government to "wake up" and change national planning policy to force heavy industries to reduce their carbon footprints.

He was part of the planning committee which went against officers recommendation and refused the application last year.

He said "I feel it was a necessary precedent to set to the industry to say 'You've got to become much more sustainable quickly'.

"National planning policy framework has been amended, but in this particular case, they still have no regard or consideration to the carbon calculations.

"My hope is that we do wake up to the crisis."

The Planning Inspector said councillors had acted "unreasonably" in turning the proposals for 40,000 tonnes of mineral extraction, a processing plant site and vehicular access onto the A38 in Gloucestershire.

They ruled in January 2024 that the council could not back up its claims that the quarry was contrary to its declaration of a climate emergency and posed "significant risk of harm to the local economy" as a result of dust and noise.

It means Mr Cullimore's company can now forge ahead with wider plans to dig up a site which stretches into Worcestershire and is equivalent to around 100 football pitches.

It plans to extract around 1.5million tonnes of sand and gravel over nine years which will be used in Gloucestershire for construction of homes, schools, retail, businesses, the A417 missing link and developments in Tewkesbury and Cheltenham.

Members of the county's planning committee discussed the decision at a meeting on Thursday (March 21).

Chair Cllr Mark Mackenzie-Charrington (C, Stow-on-the-Wold) said: "This is a sanitary lesson. We now know the magnitude of the cost to the council.

"This was a recommendation by the officers to grant consent and for reasons known to individuals they decided to refuse which went against my views.

"Whilst we as a committee are here to scrutinise and debate applications, we've got to be mindful of what the professionals have advised.

"Any reason to refuse an application must be based on sound planning policy. I think sometimes emotions get involved and policy gets lost."

The total amount to be paid to the appellant is £180,349. This figure does not include other costs incurred by the council for administration or participating in the appeal, such as the hiring of the venue for the hearing.

The council said in light of the loss it will provide additional training for the planning committee to prevent "'unreasonable behaviour" in future decisions.

Cllr Bernard Fisher (LD, St Paul's and Swindon) said: "It was a majority decision of the committee and that is our prerogative.

"If you want to do away with democracy you can have a rubber stamp to go along with all officers recommendations. Like us, they are human and they get it wrong.

"People who can afford the most expensive lawyers often win. But not pursuing a case because you can't afford to pay the costs is not the way we should operate.

"The people of that area will have to live with this decision. I have no regrets."

Cllr Susan Williams (C, Bisley and Painswick) said: "I totally agree. I voted against it because I felt it was morally right for me to make that decision.

"Without us standing up there won't be change in the future. It needs to start at county level. I stand by my decision."

Cllr McFarling said change was needed nationally to put more pressure on companies to clean up their carbon emissions.

"Applications still do not need to include a carbon calculation of operations.

"I put a motion forward to council which was then passed to the ministry to actually look into whether the planning policy framework could be amended to include the need for carbon calculations as part of environmental assessments.

"We need to change the mindset and look at alternatives which can give us a future."

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