A COUNCIL is facing a major bill for costs after losing a battle over a plan to build houses on an open space in Weymouth.

Government planning inspector Christina Downes ruled in favour of Betterment Properties after hearing an appeal into the developer’s application to build on Curtis Fields at Lanehouse.

She rejected arguments put forward by Weymouth and Portland Borough Council and said the development would make an important impact on the shortfall of housing over the next five years.

Ms Downes also ordered the council to pay partial costs relating to the unnecessary expense incurred by Betterment defending highways and housing land supply matters during the appeal process.

The council has yet to be advised of the sum to be paid.

Council chiefs are ‘very disappointed’ with the decision on Curtis Fields and said it demonstrated how important it was to get a new local plan in place to guide future development.

Curtis Fields is allocated for development in future but currently it is regarded as an important local gap outside the development boundary.

Development now would be premature and prejudicial to the new local plan which has yet to be agreed, the council argued.

During the appeal, Ms Downes said the argument was whether the proposal was needed to meet the borough’s requirement for housing.

In her decision, she concluded the borough had a ‘severe and substantial shortfall’ in the supply of deliverable housing sites over the next five years.

She added: “In this respect it has an out-of-date development plan and the emerging local plan, whilst it has now been submitted for examination, is not sufficiently advanced to provide policies that can be relied upon in terms of housing land supply.”

Borough council environment spokesman Ian Roebuck said: “We are very disappointed with the decision on Curtis Fields. We do not agree with the inspector’s view of the local plan.

“This decision illustrates the importance of putting in place a local plan for the area as soon as possible. Otherwise we find ourselves in a ‘planning by appeal’ situation.

“This suits only developers and will see sites coming forward for development which have the support of neither the council nor local communities.

“We are taking all possible steps to get the joint local plan for Weymouth, Portland and West Dorset through to determination.”

An exploratory meeting into the new local plan, a joint document for Weymouth and West Dorset councils, was held last week due to a government inspector’s concerns over aspects of it. The inspector has yet to report back to the councils.

BETTERMENT’S application includes demolition of existing derelict farm buildings and the formation of 64 houses, 19 flats, a convenience store, and office together with alterations to the existing watercourse, drainage, highways and landscaping. It also sought outline permission for a second phase of development for a further 97 dwellings.

Development would be focused at the Fiveways end of the land.

Betterment bought the land from the Curtis family several years ago and in 2012 unveiled multi-million pound plans to develop the site following years of disputes.

It wants to build up to 600 homes on the land eventually.