COUNCILLORS have been left with egg on their faces after refusing a controversial planning application in a village near Winchester.

Now a planning inspector has ordered the city council to pay legal costs after overturning their refusal of a proposal for a garden outbuilding to be used as accommodation in Colden Common.

A planning committee in July rejected the plan claiming the applicant was "playing the system".

The applicant Jane Ratcliffe disagreed and now after an appeal an inspector has rejected the council's stance and awarded costs against the authority.

The council was asked to comment but had not responded at the time of going to press.

Inspector Andrew Bremford in his decision wrote: "The use of the accommodation would be ancillary to Brown Eaves and so, as a result of the proposal, a new dwelling would not be created in the countryside.

"It appears to me that having regard to the provisions of the development plan and other material considerations, the proposal should reasonably have been permitted. The refusal of planning permission therefore constitutes unreasonable behaviour contrary to the basic guidance in the National Planning Policy Framework and the PPG and the appellant has been faced with the unnecessary expense of lodging the appeal. I therefore find that unreasonable behaviour by the Council resulting in unnecessary or wasted expense, as described in the PPG, has been demonstrated and that an award of costs is justified."

Jane Ratcliffe applied for a change of a planning condition regarding the use of a building at the bottom of her garden at Brown Eaves, Main Road, Colden Common.

Her stepson has suffered serious injuries in a car crash and wishes to live in the building.

But the planning committee heard that objectors fear this is an attempt to make it it a home independent of the main house.

The committee, which unanimously went against their officers' advice, comprised Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors. Head of planning Julie Pinnock warned the committee that it should put the past history behind them and consider this application on its merits.

Louise Cutts, planning agent for Ms Ratcliffe, said: "My client is now allowed to use the building for ancillary residential use. The accusations of the parish council, ward member and immediate neighbour at Tanglemead (as well as the planning committee members) that this building was actually a new independent dwelling are, and were found to be, completely groundless and incorrect.

"My client can now begin a slow recovery from the severe mental distress this has caused. She has not yet decided whether to take the case to the Local Government Ombudsman.

"This case follows a recent similar appeal finding and costs award for an ancillary residential building on a site just around the corner in Highbridge only last year. You would have thought that the council might have had a different opinion on my client’s application after losing that appeal and having one set of costs awarded against them!"