Princes Parade Update: Costs, Contracts & Vindictive Behaviour by FHDC

On the  6 August 2018, Lesley Whybrow (pictured), before she became an elected Cllr, sent a Freedom of Information Request to the Council, relating to Princes Parade, where Folkestone & Hythe District Council wish to cover approx 7.4 hectares of land with a Leisure Centre, 150 homes, shops and green spaces.

She requested the following information:

Please provide me with a copy of the purchase order for £10000 issued to Mark Hanton Studios on 28.6.18 ref SD00315 and the related brief to the consultant.

On the 6 Sept 2018, she received a response with two pdf attachments.

Purchase Order  SD00315

Mark Hanton Studios brief

The purchase order shows some anomalies though.

The purchase order is dated 28/06/18 and the required by date is the 29/06/21. However,  it’s clear the Council had spoken to Mark Hanton Studio’s prior to the 28/06/2018, as the Purchase order states:

as per fee proposal from Mark Hanton Studio dated 15 June 2018

The Council’s constitution, at part Part 10 states:

Any contract worth between £10,000 to £99,999, need to have at least three written quotes in advance.

According to the Council’s contract register, no Contract was ever awarded to Mark Hanton Studio for £10,000. Nor is there any publicly available evidence that three tenders were sought as was necessary for compliance with the Council contract standing orders and the Local Governemnt Transparency Code [2015].

We note it was the Strategic Development Projects Department, led by Andy Jarrett at the time, who requested the Purchase Order be raised. We know that in 2018/19 one waiver was used by the Strategic Development Projects, but it was not for the Mark Hanton Studio work, according to an FoI response from the Council.

This is not the first time dubious contracts have been awarded for Princes Parade by the Council

In other developments relating to Princes Parade; during the Stopping Up Public Inquiry; which ran between 19 Oct & 22 Oct; and had one further day on the 4th Nov, we understand the Council made a costs application against the Save Princes Parade Group and Wild About Princes Parade.

We understand the Save Princes Parade Group knew prior to the Stopping Up Order Public Inquiry, the Council were planning to claim costs against them before the Inquiry began.  The Save Princes Parade Group allege the reasons for this were:

The Council’s cost application was intended to limit discussion at the Inquiry and stop people expressing their views.

Any party  who has taken part in the Stopping Up proceedings, may have costs awarded to or against them. These can include local planning authorities (or other relevant body), appellants [Individuals] and third parties, including statutory consultees.

An award of costs may only be made where one party has behaved unreasonably and that unreasonable behaviour has led other parties to incur unnecessary or wasted expense; which of course, the Council believe both Save the Princes Parade & Wild About Princes Parade did

It will be for the Planning Inspector to decide whether unreasonable behaviour has occurred, and whether it has led to unnecessary or wasted expense, before any costs are awarded. Even if the Planning Inspectorate does rule in the Council’s favour, it will show  whole new level of vindictiveness by FHDC.

The word “unreasonable” is used in its ordinary meaning, as reflected in the High Court’s judgement in the case of Manchester City Council v Secretary of State for the Environment and Mercury Communications Limited [1988] J.P.L. 774.

Images: Sam Archer

Unreasonable behaviour is identified by two categories:

Examples of unreasonable behaviour that may lead to an award of costs include, but are not limited to:

• Procedural (relating to the process);

Eg: Introducing new grounds of appeal, fresh evidence, or relevant information late in the proceedings where it is clear that this could have been provided earlier in the process or has been deliberately concealed.

Providing information or evidence that is knowingly inaccurate or untrue; for example.

• Substantive (relating to issues of substance arising from the merits of the
appeal or application).

Eg, The development to which an appeal relates is clearly not in accordance with the development plan and/or stands little prospect of success, and no other material considerations such as national planning policy are advanced that indicate the decision should have been made otherwise, or where other material considerations are advanced, there is inadequate supporting evidence; 

The Council’s application for costs had to contain a statement which clearly explains why they considered unreasonable behaviour had occurred and how this caused them unnecessary or wasted expense.

The Save Princes Parade Group & the Wild About Princes Parade have between them slowed the development on Princes Parade. That is their legal right, but whether or not there behavior has been “unreasonable” is now for the Planning Inspector to decide.

Let’s just hope justice prevails and the council do not get awarded costs.

The Shepway Vox Team

Save Princes Parade

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