AGRICULTURAL LAND : LOCAL PLANS : PLANNING PERMISSION : PLANNING POLICY : REASONS : REGIONAL SPATIAL STRATEGIES : RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT : PLANNING PERMISSION REFUSED FOR HOUSING REDEVELOPMENT IN FYLDE : MATERIALITY AND WEIGHT ATTACHED TO REGIONAL SPATIAL STRATEGY FOR NORTH WEST : ADEQUACY OF REASONS
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government had not erred in law when refusing to grant planning permission for a residential development across the Borough of Fylde and he had dealt adequately with questions of the materiality and weight to be attached to the regional spatial strategy for the North West.
The applicant developer (M) applied to quash a decision of the first respondent secretary of state to refuse planning permission for the demolition of existing buildings and redevelopment. The site was almost entirely agricultural. M had applied for planning permission but the application was refused by the second defendant local authority. M’s appeal was dismissed on the ground that the proposal conflicted with saved local plan policies with regard to: (i) settlement boundaries; (ii) the need to restrict development in the countryside; (iii) the need for the development to be in keeping with the character of the locality in terms of scale; (iv) the need to avoid permanent loss of best and most versatile agricultural land. The secretary of state concluded that those factors outweighed conformity of the proposal with the regional spatial strategy for the North West, to which he gave limited weight. The inspector indicated that he had given limited weight to the Government’s intention to legislate to revoke regional spatial strategies and had taken into account the decision in R (on the application of Cala Homes (South) Ltd) v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (2010) EWHC 2866 (Admin), (2011) BLGR 204 The main issue was whether the secretary of state had dealt adequately with the question of the materiality and weight to be attached to the regional spatial strategy.
HELD: The secretary of state had exercised planning judgment by weighing all considerations before concluding that the scales were tipped against the proposal in terms of conformity with the development plan. The weight to be given to any particular material consideration was a matter for the decision maker not for the court, Tesco Stores Ltd v Secretary of State for the Environment (1995) 1 WLR 759 HL applied. As to the question of the weight to be attached to the housing requirement in the regional spatial strategy, the secretary of state recognised that the regional strategy formed part of the development plan and he had determined the appeal on that basis. The regional spatial strategy and the local policy both formed part of the development plan. The determining factor in the secretary of state’s rejection of the appeal was that compliance with the regional strategy was outweighed by non-compliance with the local plan. There was nothing to support the suggestion that the reasoning was other than adequate in all respects. As to the weight to be attached to the proposal’s conflict with saved local policies with regard to settlement boundaries, that was a matter for the secretary of state as decision maker. The decision could not be said to be irrational. The reasoning was also adequate in respect of the need for the development to be in keeping with the locality in terms of scale. There was also no error of law in the secretary of state’s approach to the aspect of whether the best and most versatile agricultural land could be farmed. Overall, it was clear that although the secretary of state recognised that there was a housing need, he was not persuaded that such need outweighed or justified development in the countryside (see paras 31-43 of judgment).