Case ‘lacking in legal merit’ sets CBC back £50k

Council battle, the High Court and Central Beds councillor Nigel Young
Council battle, the High Court and Central Beds councillor Nigel Young

A frivolous High Court battle over a Houghton Regis housing estate has set tax payers back £50,000 the Gazette can exclusively reveal.

Plans for 5,150 homes near Houghton Regis were thrown into jeopardy last year when Luton Borough Council accused neighbours Central Beds of failing to cooperate, while also arguing that the scheme would not provide enough affordable housing.

LBC claims were thrown out in the High Court in December, as Justice David Holgate branded the council’s challenge “wholly unarguable”. He added that the council’s case was “lacking in legal merit”.

After submitting a Freedom of Information request the Gazette can now reveal that despite CBC’s victory the case set the council back £48,666.

Saira Kabir Sheikh QC, of Francis Taylor Buildings, was instructed to fight CBC’s corner “based on expertise andprevious involvement in related matters”.

Total expenditure on counsel’s fees amounted to £40,600. Internal preparations for the High Court battle also required 91.66 hours of work from CBC’s legal team, costing the council a further £8,066 (£88 per hour).

Other council officers were also involved with the council’s defence, but the cost of this was not recorded as it was “undertaken as part of the day to day operation”.

CBC executive member Nigel Young told the Gazette: “It was of course very sad that we found ourselves in conflict with our neighbours, particularly over a development that we felt would provide significant infrastructure improvements that would benefit both authorities.

“We completely support Mr Justice Holgate’s judgement and feel that it fully endorses our decision to defend our position, which was necessary to protect a much-needed development that will deliver nationally important infrastructure.

“Thankfully, we were able to reduce our costs by using our in-house legal team where we could.”