Planners’ Rejection of House-Building Scheme ‘Not Inconsistent’

Consistency in official decision-making is important, but the High Court has ruled that a housing developer who endured the galling experience of being refused planning consent just days before rival plans were approved had no cause for complaint.

The developer had proposed construction of 225 new homes and a 60-bed care home in a semi-rural area. Planning permission was, however, refused, first by the local authority and then by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on the recommendation of one of his planning inspectors. A few days later, the Secretary of State granted consent for 680 homes, a care centre and a primary school on a site within the same local authority area.

He acknowledged that the smaller scheme would bring social benefits in providing much needed affordable homes. However, he found that the project would be a physical intrusion into the countryside and would cause social and environmental damage by filling in the strategic gap between existing settlements. The benefits of the proposals were outweighed by the adverse impacts.

In rejecting the developer’s challenge to that ruling, the Court noted that the larger scheme was approved on the basis of different evidence. The two decisions were not irreconcilable. The Court also dismissed arguments that the Secretary of State’s approach to the acknowledged shortfall in housing land supply in the area was flawed.

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