PLT Masthead 430

Comment and Analysis Masthead

Exercising delegated authority in planning

Construction iStock 000002149516XSmall 146x219A parish council recently enjoyed success in a legal challenge over a purported exercise of delegated authority. Meyric Lewis explains how.

Newton Longville Parish Council has secured a quashing order by consent in their judicial review challenge to a grant of planning permission by Aylesbury Vale District Council under purported exercise of delegated authority. 

District Council members resolved to grant planning permission for residential development “delegated to officers... subject to such conditions as are considered appropriate and to include a condition requiring that a reserved matters application be made within 18 months of the date of permission and that any permission arising from that application be implemented within 18 months”.

In exercising their delegated authority, officers took the view that there was insufficient justification for shortening the period for applying for reserved matters and for requiring implementation within 18 months. But that matter was neither raised with members nor addressed in the delegated report published by the Council.

In committee, members had wished to impose these short timeframes because they were concerned about the length of time that the site had remained undeveloped notwithstanding the existence of planning permission granted in 2007 and then renewed in 2011 and so they wished to encourage the building out of the site more swiftly than if longer timeframes were allowed.

Permission to apply for judicial review was granted by the High Court on the ground that the decision went beyond the terms of the delegated authority because it conflicted with the confined terms of the members’ resolution. Permission was also granted on a ground concerning the related section 106 agreement and in respect of officers’ failure to provide adequate reasons, as required by under reg. 7 of the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014, in that they did not address the matters relied on as justifying a departure from the terms of the members’ resolution in the delegated report.

The District Council and Interested Party have now signed a consent order submitting to judgment on all grounds.

Significant points to note on the case are that:

  1. The parish vouncil’s grounds distinguished Ouseley J’s decision on implied delegated authority in R (Couves) v. Gravesham BC [2015] EWHC 504 (Admin) because of the specific requirements as to time frames stipulated by members, see Couves at 47
  2. It highlights the importance of officers going back to the terms of any resolution delegating authority to them and ensuring that their proposed action complies with its terms.
  3. Developers and potential challengers will be astute to perform the exercise under (2) to see if a challenge can be mounted.

So there are practical consequences for officers, similar to when they receive an engrossment of a section 106, that they check the terms of what was resolved/agreed before issuing a formal grant of permission.

Meyric Lewis is a barrister at Francis Taylor Building. He represented Newton Longville Parish Council instructed by Bob McGeady of Ashtons KCJ.

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