Chambers sees off Judicial Review Challenge to Housing Planning Permission

Chambers sees off Judicial Review Challenge to Housing Planning Permission

The Fair View Inn is located in Llanddulas, Conwy. Before it closed, it served as the inspiration for “Mrs Robert’s Pub” In Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Decline and Fall. Conwy Homes applied to Conwy CBC for planning permission to convert the pub into much needed affordable housing and to build new flats in its curtilage. The grant of permission was challenged by a local resident, acting on behalf of a local group. Martin Carter acted for Conwy CBC and Paul Tucker QC led Philip Robson for Homes Conwy. 

The main ground of challenge related to the proper interpretation of a policy in the Development Plan which required that where a planning application, if granted, would lead to the loss of one of five kinds of community facility (one of which was pubs), then an assessment of the pub’s viability had to be submitted if granting the application would mean that the settlement would be left with no “similar facility”. The application had been accepted and determined by Conwy without such an assessment. Llanddulas had another pub besides the Fair View Inn. Conwy Council and Conwy Homes argued that where the policy referred to a “similar facility” it was simply asking whether another pub would remain if the application was granted. The Claimant argued that the policy required a comparison of the characteristics of the Fair View Inn and the remaining pub to see if they were a similar kind of pub in respect of food, accessibility, entertainment and other aspects of the “offer”. She contended that the pubs were qualitatively different and that Conwy had therefore misunderstood the policy and erred in not requiring an assessment of the pub’s viability.

Mr Justice Dove accepted the Council’s and developer’s arguments, holding that the clear words of the policy supported their arguments. The judgment is instructive in taking into account the purpose of a policy and the need for a policy to be interpreted in a practical and workable way - the Claimant's interpretation would have led to too much uncertainty about the criteria to be used when judging similarity and would make decision making unpredictable. 

The second ground of challenge related to the Council’s request for a financial contribution to expand a local school - the Judge accepted that the Council officer’s report to the planning committee had not misled the committee about the need and justification for the contribution.

The judgment can be found here.

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