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High Court judge hands down ruling on lawful scope of statutory consultation response

Norfolk County Council wrongly took account of the economic benefits of a development proposal when in its capacity as highways authority it decided not to object to its impact on a local main road.

Mrs Justice Lang made this ruling in what Francis Taylor Building Chambers - whose Charles Merrett acted for objector Swainsthorpe Parish Council - said was the first case to consider the lawful scope of a statutory consultation response under the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015.

In Swainsthorpe Parish Council, R (On the Application Of) v Norfolk County Council [2021] EWHC 1014 (Admin) agricultural machinery supplier Ben Burgess had applied to develop a new headquarters near Swainsthorpe, but highway authority Norfolk County Council recommended that South Norfolk District Council refuse it because of unacceptable highways impact.

Ben Burgess amended the scheme but with an access option from the A140 that Norfolk had previously said was unacceptable.

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Norfolk’s cabinet though overruled an officer’s recommendation to object because “the economic impacts alongside the safety and appropriateness of a roundabout on the A140 overcome objections as a highway authority”.

Lang J said Swainsthorpe Parish Council was right to argue “the proper response required of Norfolk in this context was an expert response in its capacity as highways authority, not its wider views on the benefits of the development to the local economy”. 

She further found that Norfolk failed to give adequate and intelligible reasons for the advice given in its consultation response, and that representations to the local planning authority were not an alternative remedy to quashing the consultation response. 

Mark Smulian

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