Planning Officers Recommend – Councillors and Inspectors Decide
Council planning officers are influential people – but the final decision on whether or not development proposals receive the green light does not lie with them. In a case which illustrated the point, the High Court scotched plans for more than 150 new homes on the outskirts of a rural village.
The would-be developers were confident that planning consent would be granted in that planning officers had not only recommended that it should be but had also urged them to increase the building density of the scheme. However, elected councillors went their own way and refused permission, principally on grounds that the project would harm the area’s unspoilt character and appearance.
Following a public inquiry, the councillors’ decision was backed by a government planning inspector. In challenging that ruling, the developers argued that the inspector had misapplied local and national planning policies and failed to give sufficient priority to the need for more affordable new homes in the area.
In ruling on the case, the Court observed that it could understand the developers’ frustration at having been encouraged to work up the project by planning officers only to have it rejected. However, in dismissing their arguments, the Court could detect no legal flaw in the inspector’s approach or conclusions.