Timothy Mould QC (sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge) has handed down judgment this morning in R (Patel) v Dacorum Borough Council  EWHC 1234 (Admin), quashing a grant of planning permission which authorised (amongst other things) the change of use of an existing health centre to a convenience store.
The Claimant was the joint owner of a local convenience store located in the town centre. He objected to the proposed development on numerous grounds, principal amongst which was the impact which the proposed development would have on his store through diversion of trade away from the town centre. He argued that the proposals would also threaten the viability of the Post Office counter located in his store, which was a community facility under the terms of both local and national planning policy.
The challenge focused on the treatment of these issues in the officers’ report. Timothy Mould QC held that the officers’ report was ‘materially misleading’ because it failed to address whether the proposed development risked the loss of the existing Post Office counter and the implications this could have under both local and national planning policy concerning the protection of community facilities ( – ). Given that there is ‘at least a realistic possibility that the Committee will take a different view of the proposed development’ when properly advised about the impact it may have on the Post Office (), he held that the decision must be quashed.
The judgment also serves as a useful reminder of the principles governing the admissibility of witness statements that are designed to contradict official records held by a public authority (e.g. approved committee minutes). Timothy Mould QC accepted the Claimant’s argument that a witness statement submitted by a councillor that was designed to contradict what was recorded in approved committee minutes was inadmissible ( – ).
Saira Kabir Sheikh QC and Conor Fegan acted on behalf of the successful Claimant, instructed by Stephen Webb of Clyde & Co LLP. They were also assisted by Julian Sutton of JMS Planning and Development.
A copy of the judgment can be found here.