We are instructed by the Kent County Council (the “KCC”). KCC has been approached by developers in connection with the proposed redevelopment of Manston Airport (formerly RAF Manston) situated near Ramsgate. The developers have sought information from the KCC in connection with land they believe to be owned or leased or otherwise connected with KCC which surrounds Manston Airport.
Manston Airport itself is a very large site with a perimeter measured in miles and the developers’ request is, as you might expect, demanding given the vast space Manston Airport comprises. The developers have provided KCC with a very extensive list comprising 11 pages for which they have requested details of all the property they believe KCC has an interest in. Having examined the list and the map schedules attached to the developer’s letter, we had to conduct an exercise which necessitated further examination of the maps supplied by the developer, which did not necessarily accord with the data available from HM Land Registry, that we would have ordinarily expected a sophisticated developer to have supplied our client with.
On the basis that the information supplied by the developer has not been as accurate as it would have wished, our client is concerned at the level of costs it would need to incur at this stage in order to comply with the request. As such we have asked the developer to meet our client’s costs in order to provide all the information and correct any inaccuracies but the developer’s land agent is very reluctant to accept responsibility for costs. This seems inequitable.
The results of our initial searches revealed a mixture of registered land as well as public highways. In order to be thorough and conduct the exercise in accordance with the spirit of the law, and further to other recent development in the area, this exercise would require significant input from Kent Highways too. Having reverted to our client, KCC is concerned that it is being asked, in effect, to provide a free service to the developer, entirely at KCC’s not inconsiderable cost, which, if the developer is proposing to redevelop an airport, surely has resources of its own to identify individual parcels of land and highways with absolute granularity in the same we can from HM Land Registry rather than taking a rather more general approach.
Our client is in no way seeking to shirk its responsibility but does not feel that it represents good value to the public purse to be conducting searches and research, which constitutes significant work, for and on behalf of commercial entities who stand to reap vast reward, at the expense of the council taxpayers.
Having looked at the Guidelines, we see that there is no apparent mention as to how costs are addressed.
Please can you provide us with your thoughts and guidance as to how the matter of costs for local authorities have been addressed in the past with regards to significant projects such as this. As we have stated, our client is not trying to absolve itself of responsibility but does not feel it is appropriate to have to conduct research on behalf of a sophisticated developer who has the resources and acumen to ensure that its requests are presented in sufficient but not adequate detail.
A person (‘the Applicant’) who proposes to make or who has made a Development Consent Order (‘DCO’) application under the Planning Act 2008, as amended (the
‘PA2008’) may apply for authorisation to serve a written notice (‘a land interests notice’) which requires the recipient to provide information to the Applicant about interests in land under s52 of the PA2008. This process is administered by the Planning Inspectorate (the Inspectorate) on behalf of the Secretary of State in line with our Advice Note 4: Section 52: Obtaining information about interests in land (Planning Act 2008).
No application for authorisation under s52 has been received by the Inspectorate at this time, although any DCO Applicant is entitled to make such a request.
The Inspectorate cannot comment on any private financial arrangements made between organisations.