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High Court quashes planning permission over flawed report from planning officer

The High Court has quashed Bristol City Council's grant of planning permission for a 62-home development on a former zoo car park, following a judicial review claim that argued the local authority based its decision on a flawed planning officer's report.

The council agreed to reverse its decision after independent advice recommended it accept the claim from the Clifton & Hotwells Improvement Society's (CHIS) that its decision was unlawful.

The ensuing court order confirmed that the decision was taken on the basis of recommendations in an officer's report which had failed properly to consider the level of heritage harm, failed properly to weigh up harm and public benefit, and which had not set out a clear and convincing justification for the heritage harm under the National Planning Policy Framework.

The officer's report to the planning committee said that the council had fulfilled a legal obligation to consult Historic England on the application. But the council then failed to take into account Historic England's advice and, as a result, committed an error of law, the order said.

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The application is now set to be reconsidered by the council's Development Control Committee later this year.

Rowan Smith of Leigh Day and Leon Glenister of Landmark Chambers supported CHIS with its claim.

In a statement, Mr Smith said: "Our client's main aim in bringing this legal challenge was to ensure that the best features of this much-cherished and historic part of Bristol were preserved. Important aspects of the potential heritage harm to the area by this proposed development were, as the council conceded and the Court has now confirmed, unlawfully dealt with when planning permission was granted."

He added that CHIS would be scrutinising any new planning application "in detail" as the plans emerge.

A spokesperson for Bristol City Council said: "After taking independent legal advice, it was decided in March this year that the council would seek to quash the planning decision delivered by committee in September 2021.

"This was done on the basis that certain elements of the officer's report submitted to the committee were open to challenge. This process was begun immediately upon notifying relevant parties of our decision."

They added: "Now that the planning permission has been quashed we will work with all parties to re-consult on the application and carry out more detailed assessments before reporting again to the Development Control Committee later this year."

Adam Carey

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