At the heart of the case was whether the SSHD could rely on permitted development rights under Class Q of Part 3 of the General Permitted Development Order (“GPDO”) which, relevantly, grant planning permission for 12 months in the event of an emergency.
Part of Mr Gabriel Clarke-Holland’s challenge focused on whether officials from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities had lawfully assessed the environmental impacts of the “project”, which he contended was not limited to 12 months. The High Court dismissed this argument, both as to the definition of the project and potential cumulative effects, holding that at the time of the decision the future use of the Wethersfield airfield was “inchoate”. There was no settled intention to use Wethersfield airfield for any particular duration. The type of use, the nature of the subsequent development, and the particular land or site to be used were uncertain at that point, and themselves dependent on other factors, such as projected demand for asylum accommodation (paras 83, 84 and 99).
The High Court also found that the need for temporary asylum accommodation constituted an emergency within the meaning of Class Q (paras 67-71).
Richard Honey KC and Michael Rhimes acted for the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the Second Defendant. Flora Curtis acted as junior to Richard Honey KC in the earlier stages of the case.
Charles Streeten acted for Secretary of State for Defence, an Interested Party.
The High Court has granted permission to appeal on the basis that the importance of the case provides a compelling reason for an appeal to the Court of Appeal.