The Court of Appeal ruled today that ministers must abide by a published government policy and give reasons for call-in decisions on planning applications. This includes planning applications that were not called in – like the highly controversial Paddington Cube.
Read the full judgement here.
SAVE successfully argued that under existing policy, announced in the House of Commons in 2001 and restated in 2010, ministers are obliged to give reasons when they decline to call in planning applications. This policy was overlooked by civil servants and ministers since 2014 without apparent explanation. It means that the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government must now follow his own published advice and give reasons for his decisions. The case was heard in the Court of Appeal at the Royal Courts of Justice on 13th September in front of Lord Justice Singh, Lord Justice Coulson and Lord Justice MacFarlane. SAVE was represented by Richard Harwood QC of 39 Essex Chambers and Susan Ring from Harrison Grant solicitors.
In the judgement written by Lord Justice Coulson, he said: “Since a promise had been made to operate a particular procedure then, as a matter of good administration and transparent governance, any change to that policy also had to be announced publicly. It is not a question of fettering the future exercise of discretion, but simply making public the decision that something which had been promised and provided in the past would not be provided in the future. In my view, good administration and transparent government required nothing less. Of course, this did not happen here because no-one in the Department knew that they were changing a promised policy (because they had forgotten about it).”
Coulson LJ added: “An unequivocal promise was made, and that unequivocal promise should have been publicly withdrawn when (or if) a conscious decision was taken no longer to give reasons for not calling in applications …. For these reasons, I consider that SAVE’s legitimate expectation case has been made out.”