The pressing need for more housing in the south-east of England was the deciding factor as the High Court approved plans for a large mixed-use development in the Surrey Green Belt. The Court gave the green light for the project despite having identified a significant flaw in the planning process.
The plans incorporated various employment and ancillary buildings, as well as 200 new homes, on a strategic site which was close to transport infrastructure and already home to a number of industrial buildings. Planning consent was granted by the local authority on the basis that there were exceptional reasons why the development should be permitted in the Green Belt.
In ruling on a rival developer’s challenge to the planning permission, the Court accepted that the council had been materially misled by an officer’s report which stated, incorrectly, that approving the project was the only way in which the target of a five-year housing land supply could be achieved.
However, in refusing to overturn the permission, the Court noted that there was an undoubted under-supply of housing land in the area and that the site could provide an achievable supply of new dwellings. The site had previously been developed and the harm to the Green Belt was therefore limited. In the circumstances, the Court found that the council would have reached the same decision even had it not been for the error in the officer’s report.