Fears the taxpayer could bear the cost of an appeal prompted Blackpool councillors to give the green light to a controversial housing development against their wishes.
Members of Blackpool Council’s planning committee criticised an outline application to build up to 36 homes in Marton – but said current planning rules left them no choice but give it the go ahead.
Plans for land at the site of Baguleys Garden Centre, on Midgeland Road, have twice been knocked back by the committee but members feared the backlash if they were to refuse them again.
A recent successful appeal over a similar decision at nearby Runnell Farm, on Chapel Road, left the council fearing the cost if they were to lose another legal challenge.
Committee chairman Coun David Owen said: “We would very much like to refuse this application because it is against our Marton Moss policy. But if anyone thinks would open up the whole moss for development, that is nonsense.”
Councillors said the application was unique and would not set a precedent which would allow further encroachment on the greenbelt land.
Council planners recommended approval of the plans, despite them being in conflict with their own plan for the area. They claimed national guidelines mean the fact there is not enough housing in Blackpool to meet demand over the next five years makes any appeal likely to succeed.
Coun Peter Evans, who attended the meeting but is not on the planning committee, echoed residents’ concerns over flooding in the area, which they say would be made worse by the development.
He said members were making a decision based on fear of an appeal.
In June 2012, the Planning Inspectorate upheld an appeal over the refusal of outline permission for 83 dwellings at Runnell Farm.
But he added: “We refused a few applications when I was chairman of the committee that were recommended for approval and we won at appeal.” A number of residents objected to the plans because of flooding problems in the area and Coun Owen criticised United Utilities for failing to give their views, saying he would follow the matter up.
He said: “It seems remiss at the very least that they have not put their response to us formally.”
But United Utilities spokesman the The Gazette: “We discussed this site with the applicant before they submitted. This is mentioned in the submitted information.
“Before the application was submitted, we suggested the use of a surface water drainage system which is the most sustainable. This means using things like tanks and ponds to hold back the surface water before it flows off site.
“This helps safeguard the service we provide to our existing and future customers. The applicant has proposed this approach to drainage and therefore we made no further comment.”