The cost of democracy could weigh heavy on taxpayers after the council hired a top QC rumoured to cost £1,000 an HOUR to defend itself at a nine day planning inquiry.
Barrister David Elvin (pictured) from London chambers Landmark is acting for MK Council at the intu inquiry, which is due to resume for three days this month.
His chambers colleague Chris Katkowski QC is acting for intu.
The two barristers have already spent several days representing their clients at the first part of the inquiry, which was adjourned in September.
“The exorbitant cost to the council alone must run into tens of thousands of pounds,” said Linda Inoki from Xplain campaign group.
“This is a waste of taxpayers’ money when the council has a perfectly good legal department of its own,” she added.
Xplain and CMK Town Council called for the public inquiry after MK council granted planning permission for the controversial intu shopping centre extension.
The Secretary of State called in the decision and will decide whether the multi-million pound project, which breaks the Neighbourhood Plan, can go ahead or not.
Objectors say the siting of the proposed intu extension is contrary to the CMK Neighbourhood Plan.
An MK Council spokesman said: “The Secretary of State decided to call in the intu planning decision following requests from objectors to the application. The costs incurred in defending the decision of the Development Control Committee could have been avoided if this request had not been made.”
He added: “It’s common practice for councils to employ barristers – particularly for specialist advice in complex cases such as those involving neighbourhood planning. The majority of councils don’t have that kind of specialism ‘on tap’ as most of the time, they don’t need it.
“There is nothing untoward in our barrister and intu’s barrister coming from the same chambers. The council’s Development Control Committee approved the application that INTU submitted and as such the Council and INTU are both defending that decision.
“It’s inappropriate to discuss costs at this stage or be drawn into any further discussion about this matter. The call-in has a further 3 days to run where intu will put their case to the Inspector. All parties should refrain from comment until this concludes to avoid the accusation that they are prejudicing the outcome.”