Action group fails to prevent development in beauty area
An action group has failed in its legal bid to stop what it described as a “major development” of 14 houses in an area of outstanding natural beauty.
The case involved a reserve housing site. Before applying for planning permission, the developers asked the local authority to adopt a screening opinion as to whether the proposed houses constituted an environmental impact assessment development (EIA) within the Town and Country Planning Act.
The authority found that it was not an EIA development.
The subsequent planning application led to a public inquiry, after which the planning inspector granted permission for the development to go ahead.
A local action group sought judicial review of the decision on the grounds that the authority’s opinion that the development did not trigger EIA was unlawful.
The group also submitted that the inspector was wrong to find that the application before him was not a major development within the National Policy Framework.
The High Court, however, rejected the application for judicial review, pointing out that the threshold for quashing a decision that was dependent on the exercise of planning judgment was very high.
It held that the local authority had not adopted an opinion that no reasonable planning authority could have adopted. Its reasoning was not flawed and it took account of the relevant guidance. The action group had failed to demonstrate that the screening opinion was unlawful.
The inspector for his part was entitled to conclude that the proposed development was generally in accordance with all the relevant development plans.
He was also entitled to conclude that the phrase “major development” should not have a uniform meaning wherever it appeared in policy documents or government guidance. It was not unreasonable for him to conclude that the 14 houses did not constitute a major development.