In a telling reminder that planning permissions are not always secure and that their validity may depend on factors outside a developer’s control, consent granted for a 20-caravan holiday park on a Green Belt site has been overturned by the High Court after the relevant local authority failed to give adequate reasons for its decision.
Behind the controversial proposals stood a local farmer who argued that the plans would enable diversification of her business and bring a much-needed boost to the local economy through increased tourism. However, the council’s decision to grant planning permission for the proposals brought a determined response from a neighbouring landowner.
One of the council’s planning officers had recognised that the holiday park would be an inappropriate development in the Green Belt but had nevertheless advised that the economic benefits of the scheme amounted to 'very special circumstances' justifying the grant of planning consent.
The officer had had gone on to recommend that permission be refused for a manager to live permanently in a caravan on the site; however the council had disagreed with him in that respect and had resolved to approve the entire scheme.
After the neighbour launched judicial review proceedings, the local authority threw in the towel, conceding that the reasons it gave for its decision were inadequate and that the planning permission could not stand. However, the farmer declined to follow suit and sought to uphold the validity of the consent.
The Court ruled that the council had been obliged to give more than the summary reasons it did for its decision, particularly having departed from its own officer's recommendation in respect of the manager’s caravan. Some explanation for the council taking that stance had been called for.
Also noting that some of the language used in its very brief decision cast doubt on whether the council had properly understood relevant Green Belt policies, the Court concluded that quashing the planning permission in its entirety was the appropriate remedy in the circumstances.