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Embarrassing question on judicial review costs for Cabinet member

Cllr Alec Cormack, Cabinet Member for Corporate Finance (Pic: Pembrokeshire county Council webcast)

A SENIOR Pembrokeshire councillor, who was once part of an attempt to battle the authority through a  judicial review over a contentious planning application, is to come under the spotlight.

A legal challenge to try and overturn a council decision to approve three planning applications at Heritage Park, Stepaside, was launched in 2021 by the Stepaside and Pleasant Valley Residents Group (SPVRG Ltd), led by Alec Cormack, with a judicial review starting later that year.

That legal challenge, before the-now council cabinet member for corporate finance Mr Cormack became a member of the county council, failed in early 2022.

The challenge centred around an attempt to try and prove the council had wrongly granted permission for 29 caravans on the site in 2021, an addition to a previous 2016 grant for caravans, despite what SPVRG Ltd said was a binding legal agreement – going back to 1987 – guaranteeing that part of the site would not be used for anything other than parking.

Cllr Mark Carter (Pic: Pembrokeshire County Council)

In a submitted question, to be heard at the December 14 meeting of full council, Cllr Mark Carter will ask Cllr Cormack: “On January 26, 2022, a High Court decision was handed down in relation to the Heritage Park, Stepaside judicial review proceedings issued by SPVRG Ltd in relation to planning permission granted for the caravan site.

“The costs awarded to the council were capped at £10,000. The actual cost to this council does not appear to have been revealed.

“Would the Cabinet Member for Corporate Finance please provide a figure that includes all costs, officer time etc, out-of-pocket expenses and external legal advice to defend this action that was not recovered from SPVRG Ltd, i.e. the net loss to this council once PCC had received the £10,000, assuming it was paid?”

The question will be heard at the December 14 meeting.

Since the judicial challenge, SPVRG has objected to a fresh development at Stepaside’s Heritage Park, which was ultimately approved at a recent full council meeting despite being repeatedly recommended for refusal.