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Supreme Court to rule next week on community benefit fund donations and material considerations for granting planning permissions

The Supreme Court will next week (20 November) hand down an imporrtant ruling on whether a council was entitled to take into account as a material consideration, when granting planning permission, the offer of a community benefit fund donation.

The case of R (on the application of Wright) (Respondent) v Resilient Energy Severndale Ltd and Forest of Dean District Council (Appellants) was the first time the Court had sat in Wales. It was heard by Lady Hale, Lord Reed, Lord Lloyd-Jones, Lord Sales and Lord Thomas on 22-23 July 2019.

The central issue was “whether, on an application for planning permission for a wind turbine proposed to be undertaken by a community benefit society, the distribution to the local community of a community benefit fund derived from the operation of the turbine is, in the circumstances of the case, a material planning consideration which the council could lawfully take into account when considering whether to grant planning permission.”

The background to the case was that Resilient Energy Severndale was granted planning permission for a single, community-scale wind turbine at Severndale Farm in Gloucestershire by the Forest of Dean District Council on 30 September 2015.

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The council took into account in its determination of the planning application the proposal by Resilient Energy Severndale to distribute funds derived from the operation of the turbine to the local community through a community benefit society.

The grant of planning permission was challenged by a claim for judicial review brought by a local resident, Peter Wright.

It was quashed in the High Court on the ground that the council had unlawfully taken into account a matter which was not a material planning consideration.

In Wright, R (on the application of) v Forest of Dean District Council Resilient Energy Serverndale Ltd [2017] EWCA Civ 2102 the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeals, saying Mr Justice Dove’s conclusions had been correct.


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