In Tate v Northumberland County Council  EWCA Civ 1519 Lindblom and Jackson LJJ upheld the High Court’s quashing of planning permission for a house in the Green Belt on the grounds of inadequate reasoning.
The Council had approved the house as an exception to Green Belt policy under NPPF paragraph 89 as “limited infilling within a village”. In 2008, an Inspector had, however, refused planning permission for a dwelling on the same plot and had stated that, in his view, it did not amount to infill since the proposal would not fill a gap in an otherwise developed road frontage, which he said was one reasonable test of infill development.
Giving the leading judgment, Lindblom LJ stated that it was well established that previous appeal decisions were capable of being material considerations. The question of whether a particular proposal was infilling would always be essentially a question of fact and planning judgment for the decision-maker. However, the Planning Officer, whilst obviously aware of the previous Inspector’s decision, said nothing about the inspector's approach, whilst plainly adopting a different approach, and reaching a different conclusion.
The committee was not bound to adopt the same approach as the inspector, but if it was to take a different approach, it needed to acknowledge that difference and explain the inconsistency. Although that point had been firmly made by the respondent in his letter of objection, the officer did not tackle it. It was not entirely clear what approach he had adopted. No reasons were given in his report or in the minutes of the committee meeting or in the decision notice itself. The need for reasons to be given to explain such an inconsistency was not removed by the fact that the planning judgment involved was relatively straightforward.
The grant of permission was vitiated by that plain error of law, inherent in which there was substantial prejudice to the respondent and other members of the public affected by the grant.
This is the third occasion that this planning permission has been quashed following judicial review claims brought by Dr Tate, the Council having consented to judgment on the previous two occasions.
Annabel Graham Paul represented Dr Tate on each occasion instructed by Susan Ring and Harry Campbell, latterly of Harrison Grant Solicitors. Juan Lopez appeared on behalf of the Council in the third judicial review in both the High Court and Court of Appeal.