Planning Team successfully advise Gravel Way Limited on Statutory Review application

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Specialist planning lawyers at Walker Morris have successfully advised Gravel Way Limited on an application for Statutory Review against a Planning Inspector’s decision to refuse planning permission for a residential development.

Why is this case of interest?

As a result of the Planning Inspectorate’s push to reduce the time in which appeals decided by public inquiry are determined, more appeals are being determined by way of written representations. In some cases, this has resulted in a reduction in the quality of decision making by Planning Inspectors with significant caseloads. In this recent case, the Walker Morris Planning Team successfully launched a Statutory Review claim in relation to an appeal decision based on written representations. Permission for the claim for Statutory Review to proceed was granted by the High Court, and the Secretary of State subsequently consented to judgement. A Planning Inspector will now re-determine the appeal. The case therefore shows that a targeted legal challenge to a questionable appeal decision can result in the Secretary of State agreeing to determine the matter afresh.

What happened in this case?

Planning permission for the development of a 2/3 storey residential apartment block comprising 6 1-bed flats and 1 2-bed flat was initially refused by the local authority (the Second Defendant, the London Borough of Bromley) and, on appeal, by a Planning Inspector (acting on behalf of First Defendant, The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government). The Walker Morris Planning Team – led by Alison Ogley (Partner), who, as a solicitor advocate, was able to draft court papers and provide early expert advice on the merits of the case without need to separate instruct counsel. Alison was assistednin advising Gravel Way Limited on a Statutory Review application to the High Court challenging the lawfulness of the Inspector’s decision on 4 grounds of challenge:

  1. The Inspector failed to have regard to the development plan
  2. The Inspector made errors of fact in reaching his decision to refuse planning permission
  3. The Inspector failed to have regard to material considerations in reaching his decision
  4. The Inspector failed to provide adequate reasons for his decision on two counts:
    1. The impact of the scheme of privacy of neighbouring properties
    2. That he would have refused permission even if the planning authority could demonstrate a 5 year housing supply

The High Court granted permission on the papers for the claim to continue on three of the four grounds. In view of the Court’s decision that it was arguable that the Planning Inspector had made the factual and legal errors alleged in coming to the appeal decision, the Secretary of State consented to judgment bringing the claim to an end before a trial had taken place. Although the Secretary of State did not concede on all grounds, the concession was sufficient to quash the Inspector’s decision and the parties were able to come to a practical solution in agreeing that an Inspector would consider the appeal afresh. The Secretary of State will now have to pay Gravel Way’s costs of bringing the Statutory Challenge.

What practical advice arises as a consequence?

It will be of interest to the industry that the Secretary of State will submit to judgement where targeted legal challenges demonstrate legal and factual errors in an appeal decision; this is especially relevant in the case of appeals determined by way of written representations where decision making can be of variable quality.

Speaking about the decision, Alison said:

“This case was a great result for our client who had not been served well by the planning appeal system; it demonstrates that targeted challenges can succeed where a Planning Inspector has made errors in reaching a decision and is a cautionary tale regarding the challenges faced by appellant’s in written reps appeals.”