One Source Aug 20 Composite 600 final

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Developer loses High Court battle over planning consent after council admitted failure to give adequate reasons

Bath and North East Somerset Council should have given adequate reasons when it allowed a development against officer’s recommendations, the High Court has found.

The project by Rengen Developments involved various additions and refurbishment to a pub and construction of nine studio flat in the course of which a Grade II listed skittle alley would have to be demolished and replaced.

Nearby resident Susan Walker challenged the council on four grounds, one of which - the lack of reasons given - was conceded by the authority.

In Walker, R (On the Application Of) v Bath and North East Somerset Council [2020] EWHC 1836 (Admin) Mrs Justice Jefford said: “The council has taken no part in these proceedings and consents to judgment, conceding that the decision was unlawful on Ground 1 (failure to give reasons).”

She said the council and Ms Walker had agreed the terms of a draft consent order under which planning permission and listed building consent would be quashed and the council would reconsider the applications.

Rengen though opposed this and did not agree to the draft consent order.

Jefford J said the officer’s report to the planning committee “was overwhelmingly in favour of refusal” of planning consent.

Reasons included harm to the setting of the Belvoir Castle Pub and Ms Walker’s Grade II listed home and demolition of the skittle alley.

Officers attached little weight to the future of the pub, because there was no evidence of the relationship between securing this and the development.

Councillors though disagreed and gave consent in part because they believed this would secure the pub’s future.

Ms Walker argued that the committee erred in failing to provide sufficient reasons for departing from the officer's recommendation.

She said it further erred by taking into account the immaterial consideration of retaining the pub, despite this not being supported by evidence.

Two further grounds were procedural unfairness and irrationality.

The council conceded the first ground saying: “Notwithstanding the absence of a statutory duty to give reasons for the grant of planning permission, the court would identify a duty to give reasons in the circumstances of this decision not only because the application was recommended for refusal by officers but because it was identified to be contrary to the development plan.”

It also admitted it was unclear whether floor risk policy had been properly considered  and admitted Ms Walker had been prejudiced as she had no way of knowing the basis for the council’s decision.

Jefford J said that despite Rengen’s arguments, “it is clear, in my view, that the council did not give any or any adequate reasons.

She also said there no rational basis for the council to have regarded the future of the pub as a material consideration.

Mark Smulian