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Council failed to consider impact of proposed retail development on local post office, High Court finds

Dacorum Borough Council should have considered the impact of a small retail development on the viability of a local Post Office when it granted planning permission, the High Court has ruled.

Sagar Vishnubhai Patel, owner of a Nisa Local store and Post Office counter in Markyate, originally challenged Dacorum at judicial review on 16 grounds - later whittled down to seven - of which one succeeded.

Timothy Mould QC, sitting as a deputy High Court judge, said in Patel, R (On the Application Of) v Dacorum Borough Council [2019] EWHC 2992 that the viability of the Post Office service should have been a material consideration.

Dacorum granted planning permission for 75 homes, a health centre, three commercial units, a public square and 197 car parking spaces in Markyate.

Although there was a size restriction imposed on new shops - to protect the viability of the village’s existing centre - Mr Patel argued that these would affect his business in which the profitability of the Post Office service was already marginal.

Markyate Parish Council lodged an objection to the proposed development and a petition opposing it attracted more than 1,000 signatures citing among other matters the risk of closure of the Post Office.

Mr Patel argued that the continuing availability of Post Office services was a material consideration under paragraph 92 of the National Planning Policy Framework when assessing the impact of the proposed development on the vitality and viability of the village centre.

The judge said: “The [planning officer’s] report did not address as a material consideration the risk posed by the proposed development to the Post Office counter within the NISA Local store.”

He went on: “The report needed to address the question whether the proposed development risked the loss of the existing Post Office counter at the Nisa Local store. That was a material consideration in its own right. The report did not address that consideration.”

Instead it advised the impact on Mr Patel’s shop in isolation was not a significant planning consideration and that the proposed food store in the new development fulfilled a planning policy that social infrastructure providing services and facilities to the community would be encouraged.

Mr Mould found: “That was misleading, and materially so…since it is right to conclude that had the question whether the proposed development risked the loss of the existing post office counter at the Nisa Local store been addressed, the committee at least might have reached the overall conclusion that planning permission should be withheld.”

Mark Smulian

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