HASLEMERE Town Council has agreed to join a ’Rule 6 party’, giving it a seat around the table at the upcoming Red Court appeal inquiry.
The "extraordinary" meeting was called to discuss a motion proposed by Cllrs John Robini and Jacquie Keen that: "Haslemere Town Council join with other witness groups in a Rule 6 party to defend Waverley Borough Council’s decision to reject the planning application at Red Court at the appeal hearing."
But Simon Dear, town mayor, expressed concern about the adverse costs the council could face should the appeal inspector overturn Waverley’s refusal of the 50-home scheme in Scotland Lane.
Cllr Dear said: "Members need to understand that this Rule 6 status brings risks and obligations. For example, there is the risk of an adverse costs award being made against the council if it is found to have acted unreasonably in persisting with its objections to the development.
"Examples of unreasonable would be: failure to produce evidence to substantiate each reason for refusal; making vague, generalised or inaccurate assertions about the proposal’s impact. It’s therefore essential that any objections this council made to the appeal are supported by evidence."
However, Cllr David Dullaway said: "The question of will we have costs awarded against us is a bit of a red herring.
"I think, however, the question of what it would cost us to do it is not a red herring."
Cllr Terry Weldon spoke in support of the motion.
He said: "The key point is that we should not be unreasonable. There’s no reason to think we will be. There are very reasonable grounds for defending our objection."
Cllr Nikki Barton argued that the town needs to support the neighbourhood plan. She said: "If we don’t support this we are undermining the integrity of our neighbourhood plan."
Cllr Kirsten Ellis also spoke in support of the motion.
She said: "To me the council’s main role is to represent the majority wishes of the community, and that is what we’re here to do. Standing back and failing to put our money where our mouth would be would actually be essentially not representing our community.
"I believe that we should be present as part of this process."
Cllrs Robini and Keen amended their motion to cap the town council’s financial contribution at £2,500, which was passed by an 11-5 majority.