The appellant, Whitley Parish Council, argued on appeal that the Planning Committee of North Yorkshire County Council had failed to have proper regard to Waste Local Plan policy on the reworking of deposited waste as the officer’s report advised that “it is not considered that part a) of [Policy 7/3] can be given any weight in determining this application”. The basis for that advice was that the policy was outdated and did not reflect the more recent National Planning Policy for Waste. The appellant’s argument was that the advice misled the Committee – and fettered its discretion – by effectively telling them that part a) of the policy was not a material consideration.
Sir Keith Lindblom (the Senior President of Tribunals) rejected that argument. In doing so, he set out some basic propositions relating to the determination of planning applications (at paras.30-33) and some basic principles relating to committee decision-making (at paras.34-37).
There was no issue that it is lawful for a decision-maker to give a material consideration – including a development plan policy – what weight they consider appropriate, including no weight at all (see Tesco v SSE  1 WLR 759 at 780F-G).
The Court in this case held that on a straightforward reading in context the impugned words in the officer’s report “clearly embody the giving of planning advice, informed by planning judgment”. There was a rational basis for that advice and therefore no legal error. The Court also rejected a subsidiary argument that the County Council should have considered alternatives in more detail.
The case is another recent example of the courts urging the need for a realistic and benevolent approach to the reading of officer’s reports (see e.g. R (Goesa Ltd) v Eastleigh BC  EWHC 1221 (Admin) at para.160). It also usefully brings together the applicable law for future reference and application.