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Claimant fails in High Court challenge to grant of planning permission for creation of lake for rafting and canoeing

A local resident has lost a High Court case in which he claimed East Suffolk Council should not have given planning permission for the creation of a lake at a children’s adventure centre near his home.

Barry Zins argued that planning committee members were materially misled by the officer’s report concerned.

But in Zins, R (On the Application Of) v East Suffolk Council [2020] EWHC 2850 James Strachan QC, sitting as a deputy judge of the High Court, rejected the case that the committee was not made properly aware of noise concerns raised by the environmental health officer or about heritage issues.

East Suffolk in November 2019 gave conditional planning permission to PGL Travel and HB PGL Holding to create a lake for recreational activities including excavation and the re-organisation of existing activity structures at Bawdsey Manor Estate.

This estate is countryside alongside the River Deben and the coast and includes Bawdsey Manor House, a Grade II* listed building, its formal gardens and Grade II registered parkland.

Bawdsey Manor House was used as a boarding school until 2016 but this made little use of the area for the proposed lake, which is near to residential properties.

The council’s environmental health officer did not object to the proposal but sought a condition requiring a noise management plan after residents raised concerns.

A planning officer’s report said: “It is not considered the proposal will cause undue noise disturbance to justify a refusal of planning permission on these grounds”.

Mr Zinz argued that the planning officer's report, and an update sheet, were materially misleading on the substance of the environmental health officer’s advice.

But Judge Strachan said planning officers could disagree with the views of a consultee, including an environmental health officer, providing they did not omit material considerations.

"In some of the claimant's criticisms of the update sheet it seems to me that the important distinction between the planning advice of the officer, as compared with advice from a consultee with which the planning officer may disagree, may have become blurred to some degree”, he said.

The judge added: “It was legitimate for the planning officer to have a different view as to the overall acceptability of the noise environment, with the noise management measures proposed, and to communicate that view to members in a report of this kind. It was then ultimately for members to make up their own mind on such matters exercising their own judgment.

“In my judgment members reading the documents as a whole would not have been materially misled on the issue.”

On the heritage point the court heard that Historic England and the council's principal design and conservation officer and arboricultural and landscape manager had welcomed restoration of the River Jordan, which formed part of PGL’s scheme, “as it will provide a significant enhancement to the setting of the manor on approach”.

Judge Strachan said: "I do not consider the committee were materially misled as to what is stated in the report.

"Even if there were in fact some ambiguity in what is being stated in this part of the report (which I do not think is the case), I would not have considered this to be a basis for concluding that the committee were materially misled in any event.”

Mark Smulian