Cash-strapped councillors have been unable to agree the establishment of a £250,000 fighting fund to defend the authority’s decision to refuse planning permission for four windfarms due to Berwick Borough Council’s parlous financial situation.
Member’s of the council’s policy committee were told £100,000 had already been set aside to cover the costs of the Wandylaw appeal, which is due to start on September 16.
However, they were unable to agree another £150,000 to fight appeals against the refusal of planning permission for windfarms at Barmoor, Mooryside and Toft Hill.
Councillors accepted that the money would have to be found from somewhere, but director of finance, Charles Oakley, told members that at this stage it was not known exactly where it would come from.
He described it as “a rather big ask” if it was to come from the council’s dwindling reserves.
He explained that the council’s budget, set in January this year, had already allocated £300,000 from the reserve fund, which took it down to £500,000 – the minimum the authority was expected to keep in the bank.He said one possibility was to use some of the income the council will receive from the transfer of housing stock to the Three Rivers Association, which is expected to be completed in November.
Shona Alexander, the council’s director of regeneration and development, told the committee these were unavoidable costs and stressed that they were only an estimate of the final bill.
“It is impossible to say what the true costs will be,” she said.
Coun John Davidson conceded: “We are going to have to find this money – we are going to have to pay.”
Councillors had been asked to recommend an allocation of £150,000 to cover the appeal costs to the next meeting of the full council.
However, they noted the current situation and asked that the matter be brought back before them later in the year due to the council’s financial position.
By Stuart Laundy
17 July 2008
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