Bexley's £35,000 tab for BNP case

BEXLEY Council will foot the £35,000 bill for its legal action to enforce planning restrictions at the headquarters of the far-right British National Party.

The council's case was presented at the inquiry by John Howell QC, instructed by the council's chief solicitor Leyland Birch, and his number two, principal solicitor Bob Posner.

A council spokesman says the costs include fees of about £10,000 for Howell, with the remainder made up of officers' time plus a fee for an expert planning witness.

The BNP, which is considering an appeal on a point of law to the High Court, was represented by one of its members.

Bexley's action was intended to enforce planning conditions on the building in Welling, south-east London.

Permission was originally granted on the grounds that it was used as a shop, with part of the premises designated as residential. However, the BNP subsequently used the building as its headquarters.

The planning inspector, who took evidence during a three-day hearing last April, upheld the council's enforcement notice, and refused to grant planning permission for the mixed use of the premises.

Michael Newland, the BNP's spokesman, claims the council and the Department of the Environment have a secret agenda to force the party out of the premises altogether.