An order obliging the council to cover the cost of an appeal against its refusal of a plan for apartments was "monstrous", according to one councillor.

John Walsh, a councillor for Astley Bridge and the chair of the planning committee, made the comment at the end of a meeting at the town hall this week.

Avantgarde Ltd advanced the plan for apartments at the rear of Roka Restaurant, once the Royal Oak pub, more than three and a half years ago in 2020.

The council approved the proposal contingent on an agreement with requirements for the applicant to contribute around £150,000 towards affordable homes and other services in the area.

However, it was not signed and, last year, the applicant asked for the requirements to be removed on the basis of an increase in the cost of the development.

The council refused the proposal contrary to the advice of consultant Dixon Searle Partnership but an appeal was successful and the Planning Inspectorate made an order obliging the local authority to cover the cost of the appeal.

Cllr Walsh said: "I place on record my irritation with the Planning Inspectorate who said we were right to approve an application but we were wrong to enforce the agreement and who therefore awarded costs against the authority. 

Cllr Walsh added: "I find it monstrous and I have written to the Secretary of State [for Levelling Up Michael Gove] over the matter because I feel so irritated we have been treated in this cavalier manner by the Planning Inspectorate."

The Bolton News: John Walsh at Planning Committee

A spokesperson for the Planning Inspectorate declined to comment as the council has until the end of the month to challenge the decision at the High Court.

They directed The Bolton News to the decision last month.

It reads: "I have no reason to doubt the committee members have an up-to-date understanding of planning policy but in this case they did not have regard to relevant policy. 

"In preventing development which should be permitted, having regard to its accordance with the development plan and national policy, I find the council acted unreasonably."

A spokesperson for the council said: "We note the findings of the Planning Inspector and we are disappointed by the decision to award costs against the council in this case. 

"However, we will now work to settle the amount."

This article was written by Jack Tooth. To contact him, email or follow @JTRTooth on Twitter.