The cost to Cardiff taxpayers of fighting a power company’s repeated attempts to turn a city beauty spot into a housing estate is to soar above £800,000.
Cardiff council has run up the six-figure bill – which includes legal and planning fees and officers’ time – trying to stop Western Power Distribution (WPD) from building 300 homes at Llanishen Reservoir.
The long-running saga, which dates back 11 years, has now taken another twist after it was confirmed US-owned WPD is taking the council to the High Court. An application for a judicial review of the cabinet’s decision to appropriate an allotment site next to the reservoir will be heard on January 22.
It comes as campaigners fighting to save the reservoir continue to await the outcome of a public inquiry held 16 months ago into the housing plans.
Llanishen’s Labour councillor Phil Bale said the latest costs were justified, adding: “It would set a dangerous precedent if a company like WPD were able to use their huge resources to overrule a decision of the council Cabinet.
“It’s not an issue about money. For me it’s an issue about local democracy and local people who WPD continue to ignore.”
South Rise Allotments has been used by gardeners in north Cardiff since 1976 but due to an oversight at the time, the council had not formally appropriated the land for allotment use.
The allotments, located off Lisvane Road, between South Rise and the reservoir, are managed by the South Rise Leisure Gardeners Society.
In the summer, the Labour cabinet voted to appropriate the entire site, including unused land known as the “blue strip” and the car park.
According to a cabinet report at the time, WPD issued proceedings for a judicial review of the council’s “alleged failure to provide public access to the blue strip”.
Andrew Hill, chairman of the Reservoir Action Group (RAG), which has separately raised £300,000, said: “While it is a lot of money, it’s right that the council defend their policies when challenged. It’s regrettable that you have got a landowner whose raison d’etre is to challenge every single thing that happens.”
A WPD spokesman yesterday said the company “had no comment to make” on the judicial review or the council’s legal costs.
A Welsh Government spokeswoman said a decision on the public inquiry had been delayed “as a result of internal demands and changes”.
“It is still being considered by the planning department and advice will be going to the minister in the near future,” she said.