In such cash-strapped times it is frustrating, to say the least, that Leeds City Council may have to fork out £8,550 plus to a pub chain because it dragged its feet when debating an application for a new bar.
Planning applications which are contested or controversial should be scrutinised by a committee - that is part of local democracy. In this case public opinion seemed fairly evenly divided and no decision was going to please everyone. But pleasing the voters is not what planning panels are about. Councillors on the panel are advised by experts - qualified planning officers and others. If applicants disagree with the decision, they can appeal to a Government inspector, and if they rule in favour of the applicant - Leeds picks up the bill.
But aside from the money, the inspector’s comments instil little confidence in the planning committee process in this city. The Inspector says quite clearly that the council acted unreasonably in being inconsistent and taking too long - after more than a year, and two committee meetings it had still not made a decision and wanted a third meeting.
The conclusions in the report are quite stark. The council needs to make decisions in a reasonable time, it needs to heed what the experts say and it needs to have evidence to back up its decisions. In short, it needs to do better.