Permission for holiday park extension reinstated

Cornwall Council’s decision to grant planning permission for an extension to a holiday caravan park in a designated area of great landscape value (AGLV) was lawful, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

The planning application proposed the siting of 15 static holiday caravans and 15 holiday lodges. In recommending that permission should be granted, the planning officer’s report acknowledged that a development plan policy seeking to conserve and enhance the AGLV’s character supported refusal of permission for developments that do not accord with this objective.

However, the report also drew attention to another policy supporting sustainable tourism development, in which light the officer concluded that the proposal complied with the development plan when read as a whole. In her opinion, the impact on the landscape would be relatively limited and capable of mitigation through additional landscaping. The planning committee accepted her recommendation to grant permission, imposing conditions restricting occupation of the caravans and lodges to prevent them becoming permanent homes.

In the High Court, the parish council argued that the AGLV protection policy should have been of overriding importance in determining the application and that permission should have been withheld. The deputy judge noted that the AGLV policy does not impose a moratorium on development in such areas but stipulates that permission should be refused unless a scheme conserves or enhances its character.

He concluded that the officer’s report had identified harm to the AGLV, so the proposal was in conflict with the development plan. Since the planning committee had not appreciated this point and the consequential need to consider whether material considerations justified departing from the plan, he struck down its decision as unlawful.

In the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Lindblom held that the deputy judge had fallen into error in failing to fully appreciate that development plan policies often pull in different directions. In the case before him, he noted, the development plan contained a policy seeking to protect the AGLV and other designated areas, whereas another policy supported the development of sustainable tourism facilities.

Since neither policy had priority in decision-making, he reasoned, it was entirely a matter for the planning officer’s professional judgement to determine whether the scheme complied with the development plan when read as a whole. The officer had struck an appropriate balance in making her recommendation and her report contained no material defect, he opined. Accordingly, he concluded, the planning committee had not been led into error and the permission should be reinstated.

Corbett v Cornwall Council and Taverner

Date: 9 April 2020

Ref: [2020] EWCA Civ 508

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