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    Contracts – Planning

    Formation of Contract : Planning Permission : Contracts : Purported Contract for Grant of Planning Permission : Legality of Contract : s.52 Town and Country Planning Act 1971

    As a matter of law there could not be a contract between a local authority and an individual for a grant of planning permission.

    The claimant (B) sought to enforce a purported contract with the defendant local authority to grant him planning permission. B had purchased a substantial property that consisted of a main residence, coach-house, lodge and garden in 1987. At that time there was planning permission for six dwellings on the property as a whole. In 1988 B had applied to the local authority for outline planning permission to build four dwellings in the garden rather than two for which planning permission already existed. In subsequent correspondence between the parties B indicated that he would change the main residence from two dwellings into one in return for planning permission for three dwellings in the garden. The local authority indicated that it was amenable to B’s proposal but that that in itself did not constitute a grant of planning permission. Matters then failed to progress. By 1990 the local authority wanted B to enter into an agreement under the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 s.52 to convert the main residence into a single dwelling in return for which he would be entitled to build three dwellings in the garden. The local authority passed a resolution to approve B’s application for planning permission for three dwellings in the garden but failed to have the resolution drawn up and signed off by a planning officer. B remained oblivious to the resolution. By 2001 B had converted the main residence into a single dwelling and he again raised the matter of the grant of planning permission for the dwellings in the garden. The local authority replied that it would look at the whole matter afresh. The local authority subsequently refused planning permission. B issued proceedings claiming that the local authority was in breach of contract. B submitted that a binding contract had been concluded by the local authority to grant the planning permission sought upon his conversion of the main residence into a single dwelling.

    HELD: There was no basis in law for a contract to grant planning permission. Further there had not been an offer, acceptance or intention to create legal relations between the parties. The resolution passed by the local authority did not amount to a grant of planning permission.

    Judgment for defendant.

    Bielecki v Suffolk Coastal County Council (2004)
    QBD (Judge Shaun Spender QC) 11.11.04

    “Lawtel”: 22.11.04