Follow Proper Planning Procedures or Else

An argument over a planning permission for a small rural development has necessitated the intervention of the Court of Appeal, which confirmed that a council that failed to follow its own planning guidelines could not grant permission for a development that many of the residents of a country village objected to.

The argument arose when a couple applied to their local council for permission to build a property for their own occupation. As an inducement for planning permission to be granted, they offered a 'sweetener' by gifting additional land to a developer so that six affordable homes could be built. Outline planning permission for the scheme was granted despite its recommendation for rejection by the local planning officer, who did not feel that there was a genuine need for additional affordable housing in the village.

A local resident objected to the scheme by way of judicial review. The objection was not supported by the court, but leave to appeal against the decision to permit the scheme was given on the ground that the council wrongly considered that the planning application was in conformity with Development Policy 12 (Rural Exception Sites) in the local plan.

Such objections involve a review of the procedures that took place in the granting of the permission to see if they were correctly carried out or materially flawed. In this instance, the council had a series of 'core policies' of which the most relevant were its 'spatial policy', its policy for supporting the provision of new housing, and its policy for sustaining rural communities.

The appeal turned on whether the council had properly interpreted the relevant legislation, which on the facts of this case meant that the permission could only be granted if it met the identified affordable housing need. In this case, the need was ruled to be for five new homes, not six.

The court concluded that a planning permission for 'up to six' homes could not comply with the local plan despite the fact that 'the Planning Board thought that they were acting in accordance with the local plan, whereas in fact the proposed development contravened it'.

The appeal against the planning permission was granted.