By Hayley Robinson
A Kent council has spent almost £300,000 fighting appeals against its planning decisions - in less than two years.
From January 1, 2009, to October 1, 2010, 120 appeals were lodged with the Government Planning Inspectorate after applicants disagreed with council rulings.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Sittingbourne Messenger/Times Guardian/Faversham News show Swale council spent £279,536.
And it has been revealed the council has paid out £11,321 from its reserve funds after costs were awarded to three applicants.
But this amount is set to rise, as three cases are still under negotiation.
Two of them relate to speedway meetings at Central Park Stadium while the other concerns an application for the construction of horticultural tunnels on land north west of Thanet Way and south of High Street Road, Hernhill.
There is, however, one case of costs being awarded to the council which is still under negotiation.
This relates to an application being withdrawn for a change of use of the former Reel Time Cinema in Sittingbourne High Street to a nightclub.
Planning committee chairman, Cllr Richard Barnicott (Con) (pictured), said: "The costs are a worry and we have to carry them in mind but at the same time my personal opinion is we shouldn't flinch from doing our job.
"It's always controversial because whenever you make decision you please 50 per cent of the people and the other 50 per cent are unhappy.
"We should make a decision in an unbiased manner but if you're going to go against the officers' recommendation we do have to take in the factor: are the costs going to be too high?
"If an officer thinks the grounds for going against a recommendation aren't strong enough they do have the powers to defer the decision so more information can be gathered.
"It's the appeal system I'm not happy about.
"If we refuse someone's application and they're unhappy about it they can appeal but if a neighbour of the applicant is unhappy about the decision they have no right to appeal and I feel that is one sided - but then we would have more appeals than ever."