PLANNING committee members have been urged to make sure their decisions are made on ‘solid grounds’ in case of future appeals.

New figures released at last week's strategic planning board meeting show that in 2017-18, 63 per cent of appeals that followed Cheshire East Council committee decisions were allowed in court – compared to just 22 per cent of decisions made by officers.

And that figure soared to 75 per cent of appeals from committee decisions in the first quarter of 2018-19 – although there were just four appeals of this kind at the time.

David Malcolm, planning manager, told the strategic planning board on Wednesday that those figures ‘shout out a little bit’ – and he called on members to bear them in mind when considering applications that come with ‘more definitive’ officer recommendations.

He said: “Those numbers that we are looking at – they are quite high and actually not where we want to be, because obviously that puts us into very difficult territory if we get to those sorts of levels.

“What I’m not saying is officers get it right all the time – I’m definitely not saying that.

“But when members are looking to perhaps overturn an officer’s recommendation – and there are times when members have refused something that has been dismissed at appeal as well – it’s just making sure the reasons are on solid grounds.”

The report showed that a total of 140 Cheshire East planning appeals were determined in court in 2017-18, and a further 30 were heard in court in the first quarter of 2018-19.

Of last year’s appeals, 33.6 per cent were allowed by the court in 2017-18, and that grew to 36.7 per cent for the first quarter of 2018-19.

More than half of the appeals against committee decisions were allowed by the court in four of the past five quarters.

“I know that it is members’ prerogative – you’re the decision makers when it comes to committee,” Mr Malcolm added.

“But it is a real issue that you just need to be aware of.”