A farmer has failed to convince the High Court that that he should be allowed to live in a barn on his land for the purpose of tending his livestock. Despite the man’s plea that an adverse decision would result in homelessness for himself and his two young children, the court rejected as unarguable submissions that there had been a risk of ‘unconscious bias’ on the part of a planning inspector who ruled against him.
The South Downs National Park Authority had issued an enforcement notice against the farmer requiring him to cease living on the first floor of the barn which had been previously used as an estate office and egg incubation facility. His appeal against the notice to a government planning inspector was dismissed.
The farmer, who keeps horses, ostriches and other animals on the land, argued that the decision was infected by an appearance of bias due to the inspector’s previous friendship with one of his neighbours. It was also submitted that, during a site visit, the inspector had chatted for a short time to another neighbour without giving the farmer the chance to participate in the conversation.
However, dismissing the challenge, the court noted that the farmer and his planning consultant had been aware of the inspector's knowledge of the neighbour but had not objected to him presiding over the appeal hearing. "There isn't any basis for suggesting that he has an arguable case for showing that the decision was vitiated by unconscious bias," the court concluded.