Committee report on yard plans judged adequate

An officer's report on plans to redevelop a timber yard in central London was sufficiently accurate and detailed in setting out the issues and relevant material considerations, the High Court has ruled.

The proposal involved redevelopment of one of capital’s oldest timber yards, situated in the Belgravia conservation area. The claimants, who operated the yard, objected to a planning application proposing a building comprising a non-designated heritage asset into four shop units, which would necessitate cessation of the yard use.

They asserted that the officer’s report contained a series of errors, including inadequately taking into account the harm to the yard building and its historic use. They said the report failed to apply a relevant development plan policy relating to protecting the historic environment and paragraph 135 of the NPPF regarding non-designated heritage assets.

Judge Jarman QC noted the company’s acceptance that the yard’s history and changes to the internal structure of the building were both referred to in the officer’s report. Citing Mansell v Tonbridge and Malling District Council [2017], he reasoned that such reports should not be interpreted with undue rigour, bearing in mind that they are written for councillors with local knowledge. The company needed to demonstrate that the advice provided by officers was significantly or seriously misleading, he held.

He considered that a fair reading of the report as a whole demonstrated that it fairly summarised the issues and rightly advised the committee that the internal alterations to the yard building did not fall within planning control. In this context, he noted, paragraph 135 simply requires decision-makers to assess impact on the significance of a non-designated heritage asset and this does not have to be outweighed by any public benefits.

Since the relevant development plan policy on the historic environment did not specifically refer to non-designated assets, the judge held that the officer was right to approach this matter in the light of paragraph 135. The company’s sought to dissect a few passages in the report to support its challenge was contrary to the ruling in Mansell, he found.

Travis Perkins (Properties) Limited v Westminster City Council and Others

Date: 3 November 2017

Ref: [2017] EWHC 2738 (Admin)

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