In Bassetlaw District Council v Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government  EWHC 556 (Admin), HHJ Andrews DBE dismissed the Council’s challenge to an Inspector’s decision, wherein planning permission had been granted. Killian Garvey successfully represented the Secretary of State.
The Council had refused planning permission on the basis that the development proposal was contrary to an ‘objective’ of a neighbourhood plan. In granting planning permission, the Court accepted that the Inspector had failed to address this reason for refusal.
However, the Court accepted the Secretary of State’s argument that the Inspector was not required to address this reason for refusal.
The Court accepted that the aims/objectives of a neighbourhood plan were not relevant to interpreting the plan itself:
Therefore, whilst the stated aims or objectives in a neighbourhood plan may cast light on how the policies in that plan are to be interpreted, they are no substitute for the policies themselves, and the fact that a proposed development is assessed as being contrary to the objectives stated in the neighbourhood plan, does not mean that it conflicts with the plan itself.
The Court found that as a consequence, the Inspector was not required to address the Council’s second reason for refusal owing to it being ‘a bad point’:
It would have been preferable if the Inspector had dealt with reason 2 expressly, if only to explain why it is a bad one, but I agree with Mr Garvey’s submissions that it plainly is a bad point. It would not be a valid reason for finding non-conformity with the neighbourhood plan to simply identify that this site was not one of the preferred sites earmarked for development in that plan.
The Court ultimately found that the Council were guilty of trying to impermissibly refine their case, such that they were pursuing a case they had failed to advance before the Inspector:
In my judgment, it is not open to the LPA to recharacterise reason 2 as a finding that the proposed development does not conform to the Policies in the Plan, when it says that it does not conform with the objectives in the Plan, and to then use that as a launchpad for running an entirely new argument about the scope of the Neighbourhood Plan, which was neither a justification for refusing planning permission in the first place, nor a matter that the Planning Inspector was asked to consider. It is too late to try and come up with a new justification for refusing planning permission for this development, and if the LPA expressed itself in an inelegant fashion the first time round, it only has itself to blame.
You can read the full judgment here.