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High Court quashes planning permission for five-bed home for third time

Northumberland Council has seen its grant of planning permission for a five-bed home quashed by the High Court for a third time.

In Tate, R (on the application of) v Northumberland County Council [2017] EWHC 664 (Admin) HHJ Belcher ruled against the local authority’s grant of planning permission for a two-storey, five-bed home at Tranwell Woods near Morpeth.

This had been challenged originally on the ground that Northumberland had failed properly to apply the relevant Green Belt policy.

After that quashing, Northumberland reconsidered and again granted permission only for it to be quashed again because of the council’s failure to properly apply a local plan policy.

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In the latest case, local resident David Tate challenged the decision to grant planning permission on the grounds that Northumberland was wrong to conclude that Tranwell Woods was ‘a village’ as referred to in the National Planning Policy Framework, and also wrong to conclude that the proposed development constituted only ‘limited infilling’.

In her judgment, HHJ Belcher said that since the NPPF did not define a village it was impossible for her to adopt a list of characteristics that indicated one without straying into a subjective judgement.

“There are no grounds on which I could properly find the conclusion that Tranwell Woods is a village is irrational, or outside the bounds of a decision that a reasonable decision maker could hold,” she said.

But the judge said the decision should be quashed because the planning committee should have given reasons for concluding that the development amounted to limited infill, particularly in the light of an earlier Planning Inspector's decision to the contrary.

She rejected the argument that even if this were wrong, the development was justified by the exception for ‘very special circumstances’, which permit development within Green Belts.

The judge said there was no evidence “from which I could properly conclude that this committee addressed its mind to the possibility that the exception did not apply, that the development therefore amounted to inappropriate development for Green Belt policy purposes, and that it was necessary to consider and find that very special circumstances applied to support such development.

“I reject [the] contention that the decision in this case is unimpeachable by reason of having considered very special circumstances as an alternative route to the grant of planning permission for this proposed development within the Green Belt.”

Mark Smulian

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