Editor's pick: Minister justified in overruling inspector's recommendation

The high court rejected a claim from a wind farm developer that the secretary of state in dismissing its appeal had failed to give appropriate weight to his inspector's expertise who had recommended that an appeal be allowed (DCS Number: 200-002-133).

The secretary of state had reviewed the inspector’s conclusions and had decided that permission should be withheld. In challenging this decision the claimants argued that he had failed to give proper and intelligible reasons for not following the inspector’s recommendation. In particular, the company asserted that the minister should have been more cautious in disagreeing with the inspector’s conclusions given the careful review of the evidence which the inspector had undertaken.

Mr Justice Lang ruled that when the secretary of state decided to determine an appeal himself, he had the power to make his own decision and not follow the conclusions and recommendations of his appointed inspector. Once he had considered the report he was duty bound to make a planning judgement which was both objective and subjective. Whilst he should give due consideration to the inspector’s planning judgment and expertise, he was not required to follow it, the judge held. Unlike a judge hearing an application to quash a planning decision, he was entitled to substitute his planning judgment provided adequate reasons were provided.

In the case at point the secretary of state’s reasoning was adequate and intelligible. He had plainly given careful consideration to the inspector’s assessment but had disagreed with it. There was no doubt as to the secretary of state’s view on the case and the challenge was dismissed.

Wind Prospect Developments Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government;

Date: 5 December 2014

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