Planning Inspector failed to give adequate reasons for refusal, says High Court

Out-Law News | 25 Jul 2012 | 5:11 pm | 2 min. read

A planning inspector failed to give adequate reasons to justify his decision to refuse planning permission to a property developer, the High Court has ruled.

The Court quashed the inspector's decision to uphold a ruling by Walden District Council that refused Proudfoot Properties' permission to build houses on a farm site. The developer's interests were "prejudiced" by the inspector's failure to provide sufficient reasons supporting his decision, the judge said.

Walden District Council had refused Proudfoot Properties' permission to demolish a farm building and construct six houses on the site. Mr Proudfoot, the owner of the company, sought to overturn the decision in an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, but an inspector from the agency rejected his case.

However, Proudfoot argued that his interests had been "substantially prejudiced" by the inspector's failure to explain adequately his reasons for upholding the Council's refusal for permission. The High Court upheld the appeal.

"Although the relevant planning policies pointed strongly against the proposed development, that did not obviate the need for the Inspector to give adequate reasons," the High Court judge said.

Proudfoot argued that he had only closed his  pig rearing unit  on the understanding that the local authority would give him permission for alternative development. However, the local authority claimed that Proudfoot had closed the unit voluntarily, because of environmental concerns. It said there was no agreement or understanding that it would consent to alternative development.

The judge determined that Proudfoot had voluntarily entered into an undertaking not to use the land for pig farming, but said the planning inspector ought to have provided Proudfoot with his view also.

Proudfoot argued that the inspector gave inadequate reasons for refusing the planning permission in his decision letter and said his interests had been "substantially prejudiced" by the inspector's failure to explain adequately his view of the direct cause and circumstances of the cessation of the intensive pig-rearing use of the site.

"The inspector ought to have informed the parties whether he accepted Proudfoot's argument that he had closed the pig rearing unit on the understanding that the local authority had agreed to give permission for alternative development on the site," the judge ruled. "He did not do so, merely referring to the evidence and the dispute between the parties."

The inspector's conclusion on the facts of the case were "demonstrably inaccurate", and could no longer safely be relied upon by the local authority, the judge said, which "prejudiced" Proudfoot's subsequent applications for planning permission.

Without an evidential base and adequate reasons from the inspector, Proudfoot could not properly assess his prospects of a successful legal challenge, the judge ruled.

Proudfoot was placed at a disadvantage by not knowing whether the inspector had accepted his strongly-held belief that the local authority had entered into an agreement with him regarding the land. Although the relevant planning policies pointed strongly against the proposed development, that did not mean the inspector was not required to give adequate reasons for refusing Proudfoot's appeal, the judge ruled.