Hunston Green Belt Case in High Court this Week

Council seeks leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal on Green Belt planning issue
St Albans City and District Council is seeking the Court of Appeal’s permission to appeal against a 5 September High Court order quashing a planning inspector’s decision.
The case refers to an appeal by Hunston Properties Ltd related to land in the Green Belt to the rear of 112-156B Harpenden Road, St Albans.
Notes for editors
Hunston Properties Ltd (Hunston) applied to the High Court for an order quashing a decision of a Planning Inspector.  The Inspector had dismissed Hunston’s appeal against the Council’s refusal to grant outline planning permission for a site to the rear of 112-156B Harpenden Road, Sewell Park, St Albans.
The planning application in question is for the construction of 116 dwellings, a 72 bed care home, a new road access, two tennis courts and open space.
The site is in the Green Belt.
The Inspector, in dismissing the Appeal, had awarded 20% of the Council’s costs of the Planning Inquiry.  Hunston also asked for Judicial Review of that cost decision at the Hearing.
The Hearing took place in Manchester on 1 and 2 August 2013.
His Honour Judge Pelling QC, sitting as a High Court Judge, quashed the Inspector’s decision to dismiss Hunston’s appeal.  He upheld the Inspector’s decision to order Hunston to pay 20% of the Council’s Inquiry costs.
The full Judgement given on 5 September 2013, can be downloaded at the link provided below.
The case concerned, principally, interpretation of paragraph 47 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
Hunston challenged the Inspector’s assessment of whether the planning application in question demonstrated the existence of “very special circumstances” necessary to warrant development in the Green Belt.
The Inspector’s conclusion was based on St Albans needing to meet a target of 360 dwellings per annum, the same as the revoked East of England Plan.
The Council’s case was that at 360 dwellings per annum, its 5 year housing land supply could be accommodated on sites identified by the Council.
Hunston argued that by adopting the 360 figure, rather than a need figure of 688 per annum, the Inspector misconstrued and misapplied relevant parts of the NPPF.  The 688 per annum figure comes from the Department for Communities and Local Government 2008 based household projections.
The Judge considered (in paragraph 30 of the Judgment) that the Inspector’s approach was “wrong in law” and the proper course involved assessing housing need for the district, “then identifying the unfulfilled need having regard to the supply of specific deliverable sites over the relevant period. Once that had been done it was necessary next to decide whether fulfilling the need in fact demonstrated (in common with the other factors relied on in support of the development) together clearly outweighed the identified harm to the Green Belt that would be caused by the proposed development.”
The grounds of appeal are that the High Court erred in law by wrongly interpreting paragraph 47 of the NPPF as requiring the housing requirement figure in calculation of 5 year housing land supply to be the objectively assessed housing need figure without any potential reduction through achieving consistency with other parts of the NPPF.
Contact for the media:
Claire Wainwright, Principal Communications and Marketing Officer
St Albans City and District Council
Tel: 01727 819572