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Judge rejects legal challenge to planning permission for ‘extra care’ residential development

The Administrative Court has rejected all five grounds of a challenge to Shropshire Council’s grant of planning permission for housing for older people.

Claimant Paula Fraser sought judicial review of two grants of planning permission to Wrekin Housing Trust to provide ‘extra care’ residential development at Pauls Moss, Whitchurch for people aged over 55 who live independently, but with access to on-site care and support.

In Fraser, R (On the Application Of) v Shropshire Council [2021] EWHC 31 (Admin) James Strachan QC, sitting as a deputy judge of the High Court, said Ms Fraser was not opposed to the principle of redeveloping the site for this purpose but thought the trusts’s scheme failed to provide adequate open space for its intended residents.

She had five grounds of challenge: misinterpretation of policy on open space; failure to act consistently with the approach applied to an earlier application; acting irrationally regarding open space; discrimination on grounds of age or disability; failure to have due regard to the public sector equality duty.

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Mr Strachan said Shropshire considered whether or not to grant planning permission even if the policy on open space were breached as Ms Fraser claimed.

“[Shropshire] concluded that it should…I consider it was lawfully entitled to reach that conclusion.”

He said the second ground was incorrect and that the third about irrationality had “no substance”.

Contrasting views on this issue do “not mean that either side's competing opinions must be irrational in the Wednesbury sense”.

“What is clear is that the committee members of the defendant were conspicuously well-placed to come to their own judgment. They had all the necessary material before them.”

He found there had been no age discrimination, rejecting the idea that Shropshire permitted the development with less open space than it would have required for younger and/or able-bodied people.

Mr Strachan said observance of the public sector equality duty “led to views being expressed by officers as to the extent to which the matters required for consideration by the PSED would actually be met by the proposed scheme”.

This duty was not cast in terms which requires a specific outcome, and “the fact that officers considered the scheme to deliver objectives that need to be considered under PSED is not a basis for saying that the PSED was not performed.

“Similarly, the fact that the claimant may not agree with the judgments as to the way in which the scheme might assist in fulfilling the considerations specified in the PSED is not a basis for arguing that under the PSED was ignored.”

Mark Smulian

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