Redhill green belt arguments 'based on misinterpretation of NPPF'

Legal arguments used to justify the replacement of the grass runway at a Surrey aerodrome with tarmac were based on a misinterpretation of national green belt planning policy, according to an Appeal Court judgement.

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

Earlier this month, the Court of Appeal scotched controversial plans for the expansion of Redhill Aerodrome.

Redhill Aerodrome Limited wanted to replace existing grass landing strips with a hard runway and ancillary infrastructure.

However, Tandridge and Reigate and Banstead Councils refused planning consent and their decisions were upheld by a planning inspector.

In an important test case, however, the aerodrome company has since battled to prove that the inspector's approach to green belt policies was too tough.

Those arguments succeeded at the High Court and planners were told to reconsider.
However, the company's hopes were then dashed by the Court of Appeal, which ruled that the inspector's approach could not be faulted.

The company did not challenge the inspector's ruling that its plans would amount to 'inappropriate development' of the green belt.

However, it argued that she should have found that there were 'very special circumstances' which justified a grant of planning consent.

The company pointed to the substantial economic and employment benefits of the project.

However, the inspector found that these factors did not outweigh the loss of openness and encroachment into the countryside that the scheme would entail.

Controversially, the inspector also considered other 'non-green belt' factors - including noise disturbance, transport difficulties and the 'quality of life' of residents - when rejecting the plans.

The company argued that such matters were simply irrelevant to the issue the inspector had to decide.

It claimed that, if the inspector was right, it would be almost impossible to establish that very special circumstances existed.

However, in alllowing an appeal brought by the local authorities and the secretary of state for Communities and Local Government, the Appeal Court found that the company's arguments were based on a fallacious interpretation of the National Planning Police Framework (NPPF).

A judgement handed down by the court last week said the main issues in the case were whether the words "any other harm" in the second sentence of paragraph 88 of the NPPF "mean ‘any other harm to the green belt’ as submitted by the respondent, and found by the [High Court] Judge, or do they include any other harm that is relevant for planning purposes, such as harm to landscape character, adverse visual impact, noise disturbance or adverse traffic impact, as submitted by the appellants?"

The court ruled that the inspector’s approach to "any other harm" was the correct one and the inspector was entitled to take the full range of potentially harmful effects into account when deciding that the benefits of the proposals were outweighed by the disadvantages.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Ors v Redhill Aerodrome Limited. Case Number: C1/2014/2773

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