Airport car parking policy lawful as alternatives considered

A challenge involving a strategic environmental assessment prepared in relation to future parking provision for Gatwick Airport properly complied with the obligation to consider reasonable alternatives, the High Court ruled, and consequently the decision of Crawley Borough Council based on that assessment, to adopt a policy which restricted parking to airport property was not unlawful.

The local authority's former planning policy had supported parking to within the boundary of the airport. Off-airport sites were to be considered if a need for additional parking had been demonstrated. The local authority then undertook a review of its development plan and a strategic environmental assessment was prepared which considered one option which involved restricting parking to within the airport boundary only. An alternative option that relaxed the priority to be given for parking on airport property was also considered.

An inspector considering the draft plan heard representations from the claimant. He concluded that the strategic environmental assessment was legally compliant and that restricting parking to within the airport’s boundary was to be preferred. The claimant argued that the strategic environmental assessment had, contrary to the requirement in the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004, failed to evaluate the second option as a reasonable alternative and that therefore the decision to adopt the plan based on a greater restriction on off-airport car parking was unlawful.

Mr Justice Collins ruled that the inspector's role had not been to form an independent view, but to review the soundness of the plan, and alternatives had been put forward by the local authority. The on-airport parking limitation had been a proper approach to the issue and it had not been necessary for the inspector to go into the detail and possible alternatives of off-airport parking. That could and should have been raised by those who took the contrary view.

The court therefore held that it had not been necessary for the local authority, in order to comply with the 2004 regulations, to specify particular ways in which off-airport parking could be approached as an alternative to providing on-airport parking in the plan. What was required by way of reasonable alternatives would depend on the circumstances of each case. The failure to make representations about the off-airport car parking option by the claimant to the inspector militated against allowing the challenge. In any event, it was clear that the inspector would have reached the same conclusion, whether or not the alternative had been subject to further examination

Holiday Extras Ltd v Crawley BC

Date: 30 November 2016

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