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Apparent Bias Challenge to Neighbourhood Plan Rejected

Hereward Phillpot QC
Stephanie Hall
Isabella Tafur

Dove J has dismissed a landowner’s application for judicial review of the decision by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to proceed to a referendum on the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Plan (R (Legard) v. (1) Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (2) St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum [2018] EWHC 32 (Admin).)

The Neighbourhood Plan designated the Claimant’s land as Local Green Space, presenting an obstacle to the Claimant’s ambitions to develop the land for housing.

The primary basis of the Claimant’s challenge was an allegation of apparent bias and procedural unfairness arising from correspondence and discussions at various stages before and after the examination between the local planning authority, independent examiner and neighbourhood forum without the involvement of the landowner. 

The Judgment considers the following issues:

  • The application of the legal principles concerning apparent bias and fairness in the specific statutory context of the neighbourhood plan preparation and examination process, and in particular the relationship between the qualifying body and the local planning authority in that context.
  • The standard of reasoning required by an independent examiner in providing his report, and by a local planning authority in deciding whether to accept his recommendations.
  • The role and conduct of both officers and local councillors in response to lobbying by those involved in the neighbourhood plan process, and in relation to an application for planning permission.
  • The correct interpretation of paragraph 77 of the NPPF which sets out the criteria for designation of Local Green Space.
  • The duty of candour on Defendants in Judicial Review proceedings.

All of the Claimant’s grounds of challenge were dismissed, and the Judge concluded that the Defendant had complied with its duty of candour.

Hereward Phillpot QC and Isabella Tafur appeared on behalf of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.  Stephanie Hall appeared on behalf of the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum.