Farmer wins Carlise airport expansion legal challenge

A farmer has won a legal challenge against the expansion of Carlisle Airport after a judge ruled that planners had failed to properly consider the viability of the plans.

London's Royal Courts of Justice
London's Royal Courts of Justice

Mr Justice Collins allowed the challenge by Thomas Brown, from Irthington, and quashed the latest planning permission for a new freight storage and distribution facility at the airport.

The judge said that Brown’s claim succeeded, though only on one ground, put forward by him. That was failure by the planners to properly consider the viability of the expansion plans.

In backing Brown the judge said that the decision allowing planning consent could only be justified if the planning committee was properly entitled to conclude that there was a reasonable prospect of achieving commercial use of the airport.

But he said that a key issue involving a subsidy was "not properly dealt with" by the planning committee.

He added: "Since anything which went to show that a commercial operation would not be likely to be feasible, even for a shorter period than forecast might have tipped the balance, that failure becomes more important."

He said that he had to consider whether the short-comings in the "socio-economic considerations" sufficed to show that the decision could not stand.

He continued: "This was such a border line decision that any material defect is of greater importance than it might have been otherwise."

The claim was, he said, "by no means straight forward" and had a substantial history which had "generated enormous amounts of paper" with more than 4,900 pages put before him. He branded that as "excessive."

The latest round of the legal battle was heard in London last month came more than three years after Brown won a ruling from London's Court of Appeal quashing the council's previous grant of planning permission.

The planning decision under challenge was taken in February 2013, when the council granted a fresh permission for a freight distribution centre and the raising and re-profiling of the runway.

The permission was made subject to a section 106 agreement imposing an obligation on Stobart Air to keep the airport open and the runway maintained unless it could be shown that the airport is no longer economically viable.

Summarising the case at the start of the hearing, the judge said it amounted to a claim that the council had no power to enter into the agreement, that it doesn't achieve what it was proposed to achieve, and that it was unlawful because it was done behind closed doors.

On the question of legal costs, which are expected to be high he said the parties were seeking to agree the issue of legal costs. He gave them until 27 March to put any submissions on that to him in writing.

Whether there will be an appeal against today’s ruling is not yet known.

R on the application of Brown v Carlisle City Council. Case Number: CO/4248/2013

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