Court backs inspector on green barrier weighting

The High Court has rejected a north Wales dairy company's claim that an appeal inspector misinterpreted the weight that should be given to a green barrier policy in a unitary development plan (UDP).

The council had refused planning permission for retention of a vehicle parking area. At the appeal hearing, the inspector produced an agenda setting out the main issues. This included whether the development was appropriate in a green barrier for the purposes of national and local planning policies and, if not, whether very special circumstances had been demonstrated.

The inspector stated that he would give full weight to the UDP and the site’s designation within a green barrier and informed the parties that he would not consider whether the designation remained appropriate. He dismissed the appeal, concluding that the development was inappropriate and contrary to policy (DCS Number 200-003-429).

The company argued that the inspector had failed to consider whether the site’s location in the green barrier was outdated, given the age of the UDP and national policy advice that the boundaries of such area should be kept under review. It submitted that he had treated the green barrier as though it was green belt, which was wrong in law, and that he had been predisposed towards dismissing the appeal without proper consideration of the evidence. It alleged that he failed to give any significant weight to an unpublished draft development plan seeking to review the boundaries of the green barrier.

Judge Jarman QC found no error in the inspector’s approach or reasoning. He concluded that the inspector had been entitled to give full weight to the UDP and to conclude that the green barrier policy was consistent with national advice. This conclusion was reasonable despite the outdated nature of the UDP because the green barrier policy remained important in ensuring that new development met the overarching aim of being sustainable, he found.

.Any review of the boundary of the green barrier should properly be conducted as part of the development plan process and not via a planning appeal, the judge ruled. On that basis, he ruled that the inspector had been entitled to give the emerging development plan little weight.

The judge concluded that the inspector had been justified in expressing a view on the site’s designation in confirming that he was not interested in reviewing whether it remained appropriate in light of more recent national planning policy advice. The inspector had due regard to the economic benefits to the company of retaining the car parking area but had balanced this against the harm caused, he found.

Tomlinson Dairies Ltd v Welsh Ministers

Date: 18 June 2015

Ref: CO/1777/2015


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