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News // 23 February 2024

Successful Outcome for Planning & Environmental Law Team

Blandy & Blandy’s leading Planning & Environmental Law team has recently acted for a client challenging a Planning Inspector’s decision to allow an appeal and the granting of planning permission for a barn conversion in the Chilterns  Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Residential development on sites in the area, not allocated in the Local Plan, would only have been permitted, where it would bring redundant or disused buildings into residential use and would enhance the immediate surroundings (the policy test in NPPF paragraph 84, as reflected in the relevant Local Plan policy). The legal challenge was on the following points of law:

  1. The Planning Inspector failed to have regard to a material consideration, namely whether the extent of the building works required to convert the redundant barn to a dwellinghouse constituted a “conversion”.
  2. Misinterpretation/misapplication of Local Plan Policy (and so also paragraph 84 of the NPPF) by concluding that the proposal complied with the policy irrespective of whether the works involved a “conversion” or a “rebuild” and failure to consider whether the development would lead to enhancement of the immediate setting.
  3. Failure to give adequate reasons as to why the proposed development conformed with the relevant Local Plan Policy.

Associate solicitor Sabah Siddiq explains: “The High Court case of Hibbitt and Another v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2016] EWHC 2853 (Admin) was relied on in the legal arguments. This case considered “conversion” in the context of permitted development rights (Class Q, Schedule 2, Part 3, of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015). In the Hibbitt case, the High Court upheld the Inspector’s decision that the proposed development, which would retain the steel frame, roof and floor slab from the original agricultural building but would involve new walls and a ceiling using structural infill panels, was not a conversion at all for the purposes of Class Q, in Schedule 2, Part 3 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 and would instead amount to a rebuild. Consequently, permitted development rights did not apply.

Although the conversion of the redundant barn in this case was not being considered under Class Q, the proposed development would also retain only the steel frame and the hardcore floor from the original building and therefore on the facts there was an issue as to whether these works could properly be said to constitute a “conversion” rather than a “rebuild”. However, the Inspector wrongly held that it was unnecessary to consider the “extent of works” required to convert the barn (which he found to be unclear) in order to determine the application.”

The Secretary of State accepted that this ground of challenge was made out and agreed to consent to the claim to quash the planning permission on this basis. It was therefore unnecessary for the Court to consider the other grounds of challenge.

Philippa Jackson from 39 Essex Chambers, instructed on behalf of Blandy & Blandy, advised on the challenge to the planning permission.

The client commented: “‘Many thanks to Blandy & Blandy, who helped me navigate through the uncertainties. The outcome gave me huge relief and common sense prevailed.”

For further information or legal advice, please contact law@blandy.co.uk or call 0118 951 6800. 

David Lamont

David Lamont

Director of Marketing and Business Development

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