A regional newspaper has revealed the six-figure cost to the taxpayer of an appeal against a turned-down planning application for a waste incinerator in Shrewsbury.
Trainee reporter at the Shropshire Star Chris Burn discovered the cost to Shropshire Council of the appeal by French company Veolia to be £824,379.
The planning board had turned down permission for the £60m site in September 2010 but a planning inspector gave it the go ahead in January.
Chris contacted the Information Commissioner Office after the council turned down a Freedom of Information request claiming that it wasn’t in the public interest.
He submitted it after he had been informed about a clause in a contract signed between the council and Veolia in 2007 which would leave the taxpayer footing the bill for an appeal.
Said Chris: “I thought if the taxpayer is paying for it it’s a good story so I began by asking the council and company what percentage they were paying but they said ‘no’.
“Then I put in the FOI in early December and was told that the information was commercially sensitive.
“I thought it was obviously in the public interest so my next step was to ask the council to do an internal review but they said they couldn’t do it themselves.”
Chris went to the ICO in January with a complaint about the FOI being rejected and was told that the clause about the information being commercially sensitive did not apply. The council published the figures shortly afterwards.
The Star reported that because council officials had agreed to fund 90pc of any appeal, taxpayers now face today’s bills.
This amounts to £759,505, which when added to the council’s £64,874 for the costs of the council defending the planning committee’s original decision, totals £824,379.
Council chief executive Kim Ryley told the Star the bill was ‘the cost of democracy.’
He said that the planning committee would have known that refusal of the application had the potential to cost the council money, but that was the cost of democracy.