A Court of Appeal decision, R (on behalf of William Corbett) v The Cornwall Council, which was handed down last month is worth noting in the context of determining planning applications and compliance with the development plan. My colleague Ingrid Lekaj considers the details below.
The case concerned a contentious planning application to expand a caravan park in the Cornwall countryside that was protected by a local policy as an Area of Great Landscape Value (AGLV). The application was met by challenge from a parish councillor who argued that the planning officer had failed to correctly consider the relevant policies and that Cornwall Council (the Council) had then erred in law by granting the planning permission that he considered to be in conflict with the development plan as a whole. The High Court accepted the challenge and the Council appealed to the Court of Appeal on the basis that the High Court had taken too strict a view of the planning policies.
The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and Lord Justice Lindblom explained that policies should be read in their natural and sensible meaning, and should be read together with the local development plan rather than in isolation. It is for the planning officers and the committee to make day to day planning decisions; the Court should not have to draw inferences unless necessary. The Court of Appeal found that the planning officer had not misinterpreted the policies and there was nothing in the AGLV policy that prevented the development from proceeding. He also found that the caravan park was not in conflict with the housing policy in rural areas as the application was concerned with tourism accommodation.
Although this case does not establish new law, it reinforces the principle that interpreting planning policy is a matter for the local planning Authority and that the Courts will rarely interfere particularly where the decision maker has carefully and sensibly considered conflicting policies against the development plan as a whole and reached a judgment.
The weight to attach to the respective policies and, therefore, the resolution as to whether the proposal was in accordance with the plan as a whole, was a matter of judgment for the Council.