Cambridgeshire parish's dilemma over homes fight costs

Villagers fighting a housing scheme could be liable for all costs if they lose in the High Court, a judge ruled.

Dullingham, in Cambridge, now faces a dilemma of taking on developers of five homes next to the village green or letting the project go ahead.

The parish council believes it has a strong case as it was not informed of a vital planning meeting in August 2009.

This is a "serious procedural mishap" by East Cambridgeshire District Council which approved the scheme, it claims.

The parish council opposes plans to demolish a petrol station and workshop to make way for housing which, it claims, will be out of keeping with the rest of the village.

The parish council has already been granted permission to mount a full High Court bid to overturn the planning consent.

Treated no differently

But villagers have concerns the parish council could be saddled with substantial legal costs bills if they lose the case.

At London's Appeal Court, Dullingham's barrister David Wolfe asked for an order capping legal bills at £5,000 to protect the parish council.

Lord Justice Rix ruled that orders protecting parties against costs are only made in cases of "general public importance".

Although the dispute was "undoubtedly important" to villagers, the judge said the claim was of a "procedural defect" and "environmental cases" could be treated no differently than other planning issues when it came to protection against costs.

Parish councillors must now choose whether to drop the High Court challenge or proceed with the case at the risk of being hit with both sides' legal costs.

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