In the context of modern planning, even very powerful environmental objections can be outweighed by the economic benefits of development, as was demonstrated when the High Court opened the way for construction of a state-of-the-art dairy farm on a sensitive site in the Welsh borders.
The 16,000 square-metre facility was designed to service a herd of 1,000 dairy cows and would bring seven-figure investment as well as substantial employment benefits to the rural area. However, it would be visible from Offah’s Dyke, a scheduled ancient monument, as well as being close to Grade I listed Powis Castle and other important heritage assets. Potential pollution, animal welfare and human health issues were also cited by objectors.
Following a public inquiry, a planning inspector recommended refusal of planning consent for the project, principally on the basis that it would cause ‘considerable harm’ to the landscape and the setting of heritage assets. However, she was overruled by the Welsh Ministers, who concluded that the economic advantages of the scheme were compelling and that permission should be granted.
The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) challenged the Ministers’ decision on a number of grounds. However, in dismissing the appeal, the Court rejected arguments that the Ministers had failed to pay ‘special regard’ to the impact that the development would have on heritage assets.
The Ministers had given clear and adequate reasons and taken relevant considerations into account in deciding that priority should be given to the economic benefits of the project to the local community and the Welsh dairy industry in general. The WSPA had failed to ‘surmount the formidable mountain’ of establishing that the decision was irrational.