Derbyshire County Council - which is axing 1,600 jobs in a bid to save £157m - has been slammed after spending almost £500,000 on a dispute over a footpath in New Mills.
The six-year battle, which has even involved a hearing at the High Court, has left the authority with a bill of just under half a million pounds for legal costs and repair work.
Kate Marlow, who lives at Noon Sun Cottages, first complained to the council in 2007 about work that had been carried out in 2002 on an access road to Noon Sun Farm, which is also the route of footpath 84, some of it without planning permission. An enforcement notice requiring the removal of a parking area and the reinstatement of the land to its former condition was issued and complied with. A retrospective application for some of the work was then approved in 2003 but no retrospective permission was sought for a flight of concrete steps, a retaining wall and a wooden gate. High Peak Borough Council took no action but the work also required the consent of Derbyshire County Council, who also agreed to take no action. Ms Marlow then pursed a case against the county council to have the path restored to its former condition and a court order is now in place, requiring the footpath to be reinstated.
In May 2012, Derbyshire County Council were ordered to pay Ms Marlow’s costs but challenged that decision before a High Court, who ruled in Ms Marlow’s favour. And at a court hearing held recently, the final amounts were set.
The authority has to pay costs of £292,731.19 including VAT to Ms Marlow’s solicitors, as well as £52,746 including VAT of their own costs. The work that has been carried out has also cost £113,641.88 - a total of £459,119.07.
Ms Marlow said: “Public money has been so wrecklessly gambled on this.
“I really want an inquiry as to how this has been allowed to happen.
“This has been a waking nightmare. The obstruction on the footpath affected our daily lives and was unlawful.
“I am delighted that the judgements went in my favour but the waste of public money in this case is a disgrace.”
A Derbyshire County Council spokeswoman said: “We deal with many disputes over footpaths successfully every year.
“We feel we acted reasonably in this case so we’re disappointed with this result.
“But we’ve reviewed the way we handled it to see what lessons we can learn for the future.”