Council's decision 'legally inadequate'

Posted: 4th December 2013

garagesCouncillors will need courage to defy their own planning officers’ recommendations after the High Court quashed a controversial planning permission granted for an affordable housing development at a famous Cornish beauty spot.

Cornwall Council’s planning committee granted consent for 31 new homes, including 21 affordable units, to be built on the scenic coastline near the village of Mevagissey, despite a planning officer’s view that the development would cause harm to the designated area of outstanding natural beauty.

Following Mevagissey Parish Council’s challenge to the decision, the Court held that the ‘summary reasons’ given by the committee did not explain adequately why it had opted to depart from the officer’s recommendation. It was also far from clear that the council had considered alternative development sites or that it had given the ‘great weight’ to preserving scenic beauty that was required by planning policy.

With over 100 people on the local housing waiting list, there was no dispute that there was a ‘pressing need’ for more affordable housing in the area. However, the planning officer had recommended refusal on grounds that the scale and location of the proposed development were inappropriate. The Parish Council’s view was that the development would 'irreversibly spoil the area'.

However, the planning committee resolved to go its own way and granted planning consent. When challenged, Cornwall Council conceded that its decision could not stand; however, the developers resisted the Parish Council’s judicial review challenge in a bid to save their valuable permission.

Upholding the Parish Council’s case, the Court found that it was far from clear that the committee had correctly applied planning policies designed to protect areas of outstanding natural beauty. Ruling that the reasons given were ‘plainly legally inadequate’, the Court concluded, “As it is, we are certainly left not knowing why the committee members departed from the recommendation of their officer."