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Claimant crowd funds action over appeals against planning inspector decisions

A Lewisham resident is seeking to crowd fund a case concerning whether those affected by a planning inspector’s decision may challenge it without a full High Court action.

Louise Venn has raised £5,432 towards her £30,000 target, with 49 days to go.

In an explanation of her decision to launch the initiative, Ms Venn said: “The UK is completely ignoring basic minimum standards of environmental justice under European law. It is actively preventing the public from being able to challenge illegal and environmentally damaging decisions by its own national planning inspectors.” 

Her concerns centre on applications that have been rejected by a local planning authority but permitted by an inspector on appeal.

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“The only way to correct [this] is through a High Court case against the secretary of state,” she said.

“This is almost impossible, as I discovered, because you become liable to pay the other side's legal costs as soon as you bring a case. These costs generally run into tens of thousands of pounds.”

Ms Venn claimed this meant inspectors could act with impunity knowing only the wealthy could challenge them.

Her lawyer, Dr Paul Stookes of Richard Buxton Environmental and Planning Law, said: “The Government admitted to the Court of Appeal in 2014 that it had intentionally left a loophole in the law, preventing challenges to its own Planning Inspectors (but allowing such challenges to local planning decisions). In Venn v Secretary of State [2014] the Court of Appeal held that the claim fell within the scope of the Aarhus Convention, and ruled the UK was non-compliant with the Convention. But because the government had left the loophole intentionally, the Court did not intervene.

“Some two years on and the problem still persists. Added to this, the United Nations Aarhus Compliance Committee has repeatedly found that the UK is non-compliant with its international obligations - something the government simply ignores."

Mark Smulian

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