SUITABLE scrutiny of any council is vital to ensuring a high performing local authority.

And as such judicial reviews are sometimes fully justified in holding them to account.

The shambles of the Castle Mill development, that cost Oxford City Council more than £6,000 in legal fees, is an example of this.

It was vital the Campaign to Protect Rural England challenged the application and helped preserve the natural enviornment.

Others, however, can be spurious at best.

And with legal bills possibly being more than £30,000 and the local authority not always recouping them, they can also be expensive.

Claims the city council is too confrontational are perhaps wide of the mark. It has to fight where it feels it necessary – and its track record shows more often than not it is successful.

But these reviews should always be the last resort, with consultation and arbitration far better options. The views of residents have to be considered in every application and incorporated into any plans. And any disputes should be tackled at the earliest opportunity to try and resolve the matter.

Otherwise it is the lawyers who end up skipping to court as both parties fork out for representation, and often the legal teams are the only real winners.