Controversial plans to construct almost 60 new homes on the edge of a village, next door to the local cottage hospital, have been put back on track after the High Court ruled that a government planning inspector who refused permission for the project had denied the would-be developer a ‘fair crack of the whip’.
The developer (the claimant) had been refused planning permission for the scheme by the local authority and, following a public inquiry, that decision was upheld by the inspector notwithstanding her view that the project would make a valuable contribution to meeting a shortfall in local housing land supply.
The inspector had dismissed the claimant’s appeal on the basis that the project would 'unacceptably detract from the tranquil and rural character and appearance of the area'. She also noted that residents of the proposed estate would probably be 'unduly dependent' on private cars and that this would have an unacceptable impact on highway safety and the safe running of the neighbouring hospital.
Despite recognising that a shortfall was projected in land that would become available for new housing projects over a five-year period, the inspector stated that the development’s proposed location was not sustainable and would carry with it 'substantial environmental and social dis-benefits'.
In overturning the inspector’s decision and directing a reconsideration of the appeal, the Court ruled that the procedure followed was unfair in that the claimant had not been warned, either before or during the public inquiry, that the inspector was going to consider the sustainability of the development's location or its effect on the character and appearance of the area. Those objections had also not featured amongst the local authority’s reasons for refusing planning consent.