A report on how Bolton Council failed to refund a six-figure sum to members of the public is set to be debated next week.

Earlier this week, council leader Nick Peel and chief executive Sue Johnson revealed that the planning department had been "unlawfully" keeping fees it should have been refunding for around 10 years.

A report published by the council said it had breached the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 by not taking “reasonable steps” to make sure people were refunded.

It said: “Counsel’s advice is that it is not tenable that this obligation only extends to situations where the planning authority is asked to make a repayment.

The Bolton News: The report will be discussed at Bolton Town HallThe report will be discussed at Bolton Town Hall (Image: Newsquest)

“The obligation arises whenever the conditions for the repayment are met.

“While the council could not be said to be acting unlawfully when an offer to repay was actually refused, or it was not possible to locate the applicant to whom the refund was due, it would not be enough to rely on the absence of a request or the absence of a means of making a refund without some reasonable steps having been taken to effect the refund.”

It added: “Officers have confirmed that there have been cases where the conditions for a refund have been met but no refund was made or attempted, which leads to a clear basis on which the Monitoring Officer can conclude that the past omissions of the Council have given rise to a contravention of Regulation 9A(1).”

Planning application fees can range from just over £200 for an application to a house extension to more than £20,000 depending on the size of the application, while the relevant law stating that people should be able to apply for refunds came into effect in 2013.

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It says that when people pay a fee to apply for planning permission then it should be refunded to them after 26 weeks unless a decision is made or other agreements or exemptions are in place.

Speaking earlier this week, Ms Johnson said that she was not able to comment on behalf of councils other than Bolton but that she and her colleagues had raised the issue with the Local Government Association.

But Cllr Peel said it is “almost implausible that this issue is restricted to just Bolton.”


The report is set to be discussed at a full meeting of Bolton Council on Wednesday November 29.