A High Court judge asked Arun District Council to explain its conduct and ordered it to compensate a parish after housing plans the authority approved were overturned.
Plans for eight homes at Barnside, in Hook Lane, were quashed after Arun offered to settle with Aldingbourne Parish Council a day before the December hearing, the parish confirmed.
Arun was told to pay Aldingbourne £20,000 costs – but Mr Justice Holgate also demanded to know why the council had breached a court order in filing documents late and why its offer to settle came at the eleventh hour.
Outlining the case, a council spokesman said: “The planning permission was quashed because the Mr Justice Holgate found that the council had failed to have regard to the material consideration of policy concerning the loss of best and most versatile agricultural land.”
Arun denied a restructure of its legal services team was affecting its ability to deal with complex matters.
It said changes would result in a ‘strong, professional legal team, that will provide a high quality legal service to the council’.
Martin Beaton, chairman of Aldingbourne Parish Council, said: “(The parish) welcomes an open debate on public engagement and transparency within the planning system to ensure effective decision making for planning applications which follow planning policy, address the needs and concerns of local people including issues of flooding and infrastructure –health care, roads and sewage) –and ensure that the issues of landscape, recreation and wildlife are effectively addressed.”
The parish also had further success in the High Court. Plans for 14 homes on the same site were quashed in a victory against the Local Government Secretary and Whitgift Estates. A government inspector had approved plans but did not give policies in the parish’s neighbourhood plan enough weight.
Clarification: The original version of this article incorrectly stated Martin Beaton was chairman of Angmering, not Aldingbourne, parish council. We apologise for the error.