TAG inquiry will cost at least £174kBy Jack Sommers
March 19, 2010
THE inquiry into whether Farnborough Airport can have 50,000 flights will cost taxpayers in Aldershot and Farnborough at least £174,000, the council has said.
Rushmoor Borough Council is, so far, expecting to spend £124,000 on legal advice and £50,000 on advice from planning consultants to defend its councillors’ decision to reject TAG’s application.
The councillors made this decision at a planning meeting in November, despite the council’s head of planning, Keith Holland, warning them TAG would probably win on an appeal.
If the inspector decides in TAG’s favour, the company also has the right to make the council pay its bill for the inquiry, potentially saddling taxpayers with an even bigger bill.
Speaking to the News & Mail after TAG lodged its appeal in December, airport chief executive Brandon O’Reilly said he was not ruling this out.
On Tuesday, the council’s cabinet approved an extra £44,000 to go on fees for a barrister and extra support for its legal team.
This was added to £130,000 already set aside for the 2008/9 and 2009/10 financial years.
Of the extra £44,000, £30,000 will go on barrister fees, which had risen to £110,000 from the provisional sum of £80,000.
The other £14,000 is for temporary outside legal support for the council’s lawyers.
The £130,000 set aside earlier was the provisional sum of £80,000 for a barrister and £50,000 for advice from planning consultants that will come from the Department of Communities and Local Government.
The figure is already a lot more than the £107,000 in total the council spent for the weekend flying inquiry in 2007, after which a planning inspector overturned the councillors’ refusal of permission for 5,000 weekend flights a year.
When councillors rejected that application in 2006, they were following planning officers’ recommendation.
But when the councillors turned down the application for 50,000 flights annually, it was against the planning officers’ recommendation that it be approved.
The planning inspector, Christopher Tipping, will make a final decision after a seven-week inquiry, starting at the council offices on May 18.
The council’s planning officers’ report had recommended TAG’s proposal should be approved with certain conditions.
Geoff Marks, who spoke against TAG’s application in November, said the figure was ‘the price you pay for democracy’.
He added the figure did not surprise him as the upcoming inquiry will be wider in scope than the previous one, which lasted only two weeks. As well as 50,000 flights a year, TAG wants permission to have 8,900 weekend flights a year.
Mr Marks will be speaking at the inquiry, outlining his argument on behalf of the Farnborough Aerodrome Residents’ Association (FARA), of which he is chairman.
He has submitted his statement of case to the Planning Inspectorate.
He said: “It’s not for me to say whether the money is justified. It’s for the councillors and others to defend their decision because it’s that that has brought about the expense.
“I think it’s very important that all the decisions Rushmoor made in the last 10 years are subject to outside scrutiny and that’s what we get now.”
The council’s cabinet decided to split the costs of legal and expert advice across two financial years.