Why the Decision Notice is Absolute

The unfortunate case reported in Selby where a Council had accidentally (how !) issued a decision notice saying approval for a Green Belt House where the committee resolution was refusal, and had to accept the permission stands because of the threat of compensation has raised questions on the net about the legality of the issuance of the decision notice contrary to members wishes.


This is probably one for you legal eagles, but was there not an alternative argument, that this was an improper decision – one that could not have been made given the decision of the original committee? The clear intention of the original decision was that this was a refusal bar the one key word – Refused!

The Courts in a number of cases most notably R V West Oxfordshire District Council ex parte  Pearce Home [1986] jpl 523 has held that all that is needed to determine if planning permission is granted is a decision notice not the resolution, earlier cases have stressed the importance of a purchaser being able to rely on a notice without wading through a paper trail.

But to my mind these cases do not cover one key issue.  The West Ox case covered a situation where there was a resolution to grant subject to a planning agreement but where the site was scheduled so a refusal was issued.  Consider the hypothetical  case of a corrupt head of planning, the committee resolves to refuse an application for a new town, but the head of planning issues it anyway and heads off to a beach in a country without extradition.  In that case the LPA would be quite justified in JRing its own decision .  Indeed there was a similar case in Doncaster I believe a few years ago where the council’s own solicitor challenged a decision when corruption was shown, successfully too even though it was normally out of time.

So the courts, despite the West Oxs case, might have been sympathetic to the argument that new case law needed to be established that where a decision was issued contrary to authority or delegation it was not lawful.

Lawyers views?

A final thought in these days of decision notices being generated by database how could this happen?

Is it time to Abolish the 1938 Green Belt Act?

I was reminded that this act was still on the statute book by a letter from the government’s chief planning officer on the consents dealt with by the National Planning Casework Unit.

It includes the Green Belt (London and Home Counties) Act 1938, the first historic piece of Green Belt legislation.

However all this early legislation did was enable councils to buy land for recreational purposes and require the Secretary of States consent for its disposal.

However Green Belt is now dealt with as a policy matter, and disposal of land used as open space is subject to more modern legislation.

The only effect of the legislation is to prevent disposal of land not used for recreational purposes, most particularly right to buy of housing.  For some reason large areas of land acquired under the Act in the 30s were allowed to be built on in Croydon and Essex in the 1950s.

In these cases if a tenant wishes to exercise right to buy and the local authority disagrees that SoS has to hold an inquiry.

In one 2001 peice of caselaw it was found to trump modern right to buy legislation.

The Act simply adds a bureaucratic layer to right to buy disposal, serves no planning purpose as it this is now covered by the 1990 Planning Act (the power to create local plans which designate Green Belt) and can be abolished as part of the deregulatory activity of removing ancient legislation past its sell by date.

The London Green Belt Council would not be pleased but it is no argument to keep legislation on the statute book for purely sentimental reasons.

Stoke to Simplify 300 step planning application process

Thisisstaffordshire  thanks to Kirkwalls for tweeting this, it would be interesting to see a copy of the Vangaurd report.

UP TO £200,000 will be spent slashing red tape and making it easier for businesses to submit planning applications.

A new report reveals Vanguard Consulting found there are at least 300 steps involved in obtaining planning permission from Stoke-on-Trent City Council – but only six are of any use to the applicant.

 Now the authority has agreed to invest the cash amid concerns that businesses are not investing and creating jobs in the city because of the complicated planning system.

Officers are working to simplify the process as part of the council’s £4.6 million “save to invest” strategy for 2012/13.

The money will help fund the creation of an accelerated development zone in Etruria Valley, offering a faster planning process and dedicated advice for investors.

And the council will draw up transport and feasibility plans for derelict brown field sites to make them more appealing to businesses.

Senior planning officer Edward Sidley said: “The city council approves the majority of planning applications.

“Despite this fact, people who submit planning applications are confronted by a system that is complex, cumbersome, inaccessible and geared primarily towards meeting national performance targets.

“This is all to the detriment of the customer.”

Mr Sidley said businesses had been deterred from moving into the city because of how long it took to get permission for developments, adding: “Planning and the development management committee are at the forefront of the mandate for change.

“It has a massive bearing on whether people want to come and invest in the city.

“People have been put off coming into the city because of their experience of using the planning service.”

The Sentinel reported last week how councils across Staffordshire had signed up to a charter committing to make the planning process easier for businesses.

Planning consultant Carl Copestake of John Rose Associates said: “Everyone involved in planning has been frustrated.

“We need a clear understanding. It’s a political process but everyone needs to pull together.

“Without development there are no new jobs and if there aren’t any new jobs we can’t move forward as a city.”

Andrew Shirley, who advises on planning for the Country, Land and Business Association, based in Stafford, said: “Small businesses may only put in one planning application in their lives and if they don’t get what they want it can be very expensive and they won’t expand.

“They may be tarnished by it and never try again.

“You need greater transparency within the planning maze and to know the chances of succeeding.”

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s investments, designed to boost the city’s economy, are being funded through savings of £24 million in the next financial year.

Campaigning to Protect the Yorkshire Wolds #NPPF

York Press

CAMPAIGNERS have hit back at proposed Government changes to rural planning policies, warning they could leave the Yorkshire Wolds open to “massive urban sprawl”.

Steve Hey, the head of the influential No To Wolds Wind Farm group, was speaking after the Government’s draft National Planning Policy Framework appeared to remove the previous formal acknowledgement that the countryside was inherently special.

Mr Hey said the changes could mean developers were given a “default yes” to build in natural beauty spots, such as The Wolds, which do not enjoy green belt or Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty status.

He said: “Everything has its place and we believe the Yorkshire Wolds is not the place for major development. We believe we need to make the decision-makers think long and hard as to what they are doing. The Yorkshire Wolds bring lots of money to the region through tourism.”

No To Wolds Wind Farm is currently battling to have the region of East Yorkshire officially recognised as an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and said the campaign has now become more urgent.

Mr Hey said: “The more work which goes on in the Yorkshire Wolds will stop it becoming an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty because its beauty will be destroyed before it even gets there.”

According to the Campaign For The Protection Of Rural England, and as reported in The Press, the Wolds is the most threatened area in the country and local politicians could be left powerless to resist major housing development.

The area, despite coming to recent national prominence thanks to the paintings of world-famous artist David Hockney, has no official protection from development and the CPRE said if any local council could not show it had enough land earmarked for housing for six years, then it could struggle to block housing plans.

It is also feared the Government’s move could threaten areas around York, where much of the green belt will be undefined until a local plan is adopted ….

Labour Press Release on the Inexpensive Progress? Report #NPPF


Hilary Benn MP, Labour’s Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, and Mary Creagh MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary,have commented on the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the National Trust, and the RSPB’s study Inexpensive Progress? which finds that the Tory-led Government’s proposed planning system changes are likely to have little or no effect on growth and could undermine public wellbeing.

Mary Creagh said:

“This new study show that the collapse in house-building is caused by lack of bank lending, and companies hoarding cash and land as a buffer against economic uncertainty rather than environmental protections.Strong environmental protections are key to creating green jobs and sustainable homes yet the government has blamed planning rules in order to distract attention away from its own disastrous economic management.”

Hilary Benn said:

“George Osborne says these Tory planning reforms promote growth and protect our countryside. Now we know that’s not true. We could do both. But these out of touch planning reforms will do neither. And they will create chaos in the system just at the time when people are desperate for more homes to be built.”