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The Court of Appeal Quashed the Grant of Planning Permission

Victoria Charlesson

Victoria Charlesson, Solicitor in our Planning Law team, looks at the Oakley v South Cambridgeshire DC [2017] EWCA Civ 71 case. 

The Court of Appeal has quashed the grant of planning permission for a new 3000 capacity football ground in the Green Belt in Sawston, south of Cambridge. South Cambridgeshire District Council (“SCDC”) had granted the planning permission despite an officer’s report recommending the application be refused. 

The officer’s report found that despite there being some benefits of the proposed development it was nonetheless the officer’s view that it was inappropriate development within the green belt and the circumstances before it did not justify the development. The planning committee approved the development in principle on 4 June 2014 and delegated to the planning officers the power to grant permission.  On 17 April 2015 the application was granted permission. The planning permission referred to the delegated or committee report for their reasons for granting the permission. 

The Claimant applied for judicial review on the grounds that:

  1. SCDC had a duty to give reasons in these circumstances
  2. There was a legitimate expectation based on the local authority’s promise to provide reasons

At first instance Jay J refused the application. Jay J acknowledged that the minutes of the planning committee meeting did not provide any reasons for the decision to grant and that no reasons were given orally at the meeting. In reaching his decision Jay J referred to Article 35(1) of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 which provides that reasons are  required where permission is refused or in respect of any conditions attached to a grant of permission but not for why permission was granted.  

The claimant subsequently appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal held that whilst there was no statutory duty on SCDC to provide reasons a common law duty to do so could arise in certain circumstances.  The Court felt that in these circumstances reasons should have been given as “an aspect of the duty of fairness”. In particular, the Court considered that as the development was proposed within the green belt and in breach of SCDC’s own development plan, these reasons warranted an explanation for a departure from a recommendation by the officer. 

Commentary

Whilst there is no statutory duty to give reasons except in the circumstances contained in Article 35(1) of the Town & Country Planning (Development Mangement Procedure) (England) Order 2015 it is clear from this judgment that a duty can arise in certain circumstances. The decision need not be aberrant to warrant reasons to be given but where a decision conflicts with planning policy and there is public interest in that decision the duty may nonetheless arise. Local authorities will be relieved that the Court of Appeal stopped short of requiring reasons to be given in all decisions. 

For more information, please contact Victoria Charlesson or a member of our Planning Law team.

This blog article was produced with support from Kayleigh Chapman.

This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.