Fenland must pay the price after councillors accused of unreasonable behaviour for trying to stop Wisbech money shop

COUNCILLORS who tried to halt a pay day loans firm from opening in Wisbech were accused by a Government planning inspector of “unreasonable behaviour resulting in unnecessary expense.”

Christopher Checkley awarded costs against Fenland District Council for initially refusing The Money Shop permission to open on the corner of Market Place and Market Street.

He accused councillors of flouting the advice of their professional officers and said Instant Cash Loans Ltd, had incurred unnecessary or waste expense in lodging an appeal.

He blasted the council for arguing that Instant Loans should have made a resubmission rather than lodge an appeal “since at the time of the appeal being lodged there could be no guarantee or indeed reasonable expectations that members would undertake a U-turn if re-presented with the same proposal.”

He said the most telling factor was the about turn the committee did in March this year- four months after the refusal- when they approved the change of use.

“It is perverse of the council to grant permission for the change of use whilst at the same time continuing to fight it on appeal,” said Mr Checkley. Mr Checkley said councillors are entitled to go against officer recommendation but if they do so “reasonable planning grounds” must be shown.

“Local opposition is not, in itself, a reasonable ground for resisting development,” said Mr Checkley; a petition signed by 123 people was presented to the planning committee by Councillor Simon King.

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The inspector said councillors had given little weight to the wide range of factual evidence provided by Instant Cash Loans and had offered nothing new to support their objections. Instant Cash Loans spent �150,000 refurbishing the shop which had been empty for six months.

Part of the council’s objections, he said, seemed to be on moral grounds but this was not a material planning consideration.

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