Inspector supported in reliance on permit

An inspector's decision to have regard to an environmental permit in allowing an appeal for two poultry units in Herefordshire was not irrational or unreasonable, the High Court has ruled.

The two buildings would house up to 82,000 birds. The developer had secured a permit from the Environment Agency imposing limits on odour and noise, particularly in relation to two neighbouring properties. In considering an appeal against the council’s refusal of planning permission (DCS Number 400-017-385), the inspector found that a robust assessment of the likely impacts had been undertaken.

He noted that two scales of odour detection had been considered - a descriptive scale of instantaneous odour readings and a scale of average readings which set a benchmark for unacceptable levels of pollution. In allowing the appeal, he held that the environmental permit issued was highly material in ensuring that no significant harm to local residents’ amenity would arise.

Deputy judge Justine Thornton QC held that inspectors’ decisions should not be dissected in a laborious manner to try and find fault, nor should a legal challenge be used as a means of re-examining the planning merits. She was satisfied that the inspector had not conflated the two means of assessing odour impact nor evaded his responsibility to arrive at an independent decision by over-relying on the agency’s regulatory regime. She accepted that the inspector had made a mistake on the location of doors into the poultry unit, but held that this had not been material to his overall conclusion.

The judge remarked that the claimant – a councillor who had not participated in the planning process and lived ten miles from the site – had no private interest affected by the scheme and made no representations to the inspector, despite her position as chair of the local Green Party and experience of environmental matters. In that light, the judge held that the claimant was not a "person aggrieved" within the meaning of section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and had no legal standing to bring the action.

Norman v Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government & Herefordshire Council

Date: 1 November 2018

Ref: [2018] EWHC 2910 (Admin)

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