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Court of Appeal gives reasons in Luton v Central Bedfordshire planning dispute

The Court of Appeal has given its reasons for rejecting Luton Borough Council’s challenge to the grant of planning permission by a neighbouring authority, Central Bedfordshire, for an urban extension.

Luton brought legal proceedings over the grant of permission by Central Bedfordshire on 2 June 2014 to the Houghton Regis Development Consortium for the extension of 262 hectares of land on the Houghton Regis North Site 1 (HRN1).

Mr Justice Holgate dismissed all ten grounds of Luton’s challenge in December 2014.

After hearing the case on 6 May the Court of Appeal dismissed Luton’s appeal against that ruling and said it would provide its reasoning later.

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Luton – which wanted to secure a higher minimum level of affordable housing – had confined itself to five of the 10 grounds of challenge advanced at first instance.

It argued that:

  • Central Bedfordshire had failed properly to take into account paragraph 83 (“Protecting Green Belt land”) of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) when deciding to proceed to grant planning permission and in rejecting Luton's contention that it was premature for it to do so. 
  • Central Bedfordshire’s planning committee failed to take into account and apply paragraph 216 of the NPPF (dealing with how decision-makers may give weight to relevant policies in emerging plans).
  • The planning committee had been misdirected by a sub-paragraph in an August 2013 officer’s report that the adoption of the relevant parts of the Development Strategy allocating HRN1 for development was inevitable, whereas it had in fact been put in issue by Luton BC in the procedure for review by the inspector pursuant to section 20 of the 2004 Act and could not be regarded as inevitable.
  • Central Bedfordshire failed to give proper consideration to whether alternative sites might be better for development to meet local planning needs than HRN1. It was also submitted by Luton’s counsel that it had failed to give proper consideration to whether an alternative strategy for distribution of development within HRN1 (by reducing the amount of retail development in order to increase the residential element on the site) might be a better way of meeting local needs.
  • Central Bedfordshire had failed to apply sequential impact tests in respect of proposed main town centre uses (as defined in the NPPF), in particular in relation to 5000 m2 of office space, 3000 m2 of hotel space and 3000 m2 of cinema space.

Lord Justice Sales’ judgment in Luton Borough Council, R (on the application of) v Central Bedfordshire Council & Ors [2015] EWCA Civ 537 – setting out why these grounds were rejected – can be viewed here. Lord Justice Tomlinson and Lord Justice Longmore agreed with Lord Justice Sales.

The Court of Appeal also rejected Luton’s appeal against an order made against it in favour of the interested parties.

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