The recent shower of decisions made concerning reasons has underscored the need for greater delicacy when explaining the planning decisions. This includes those made in sensitive areas and those for delegated reports. This guide for these decisions and especially the Oakley Green Belt Case is described here.
While the decision R, also referred to as CPRE or (the Campaign for Protecting Rural England) v Dover District Council for 2016, on the way to being presented to the Supreme Court, it is important to look into the standard approach of the Court of Appeals in requiring authority figures to provide reasons for the scale development that has not been seen before in AOBN cases.
The ruling requires that all reasons for approval be presented for planning where basic fairness makes a demand. This judgement stands regardless of statutory duty and especially where important policy breaches are being considered. It also emphasises the advantages of fair dealings when the requirements for stated reasons are demanded by the EIA regime.
The officers in authority have made recommendations for a less dense, but no less viable plan for providing housing in these sensitive regions. This was rejected by members on viability grounds and those who objected challenged the motion on the grounds that is provided insufficient reasons.
No reasons required?
The defending authorities began from the point that states there are no requirements for planning authorities to give specific reasons for granting or not granting permission, unlike the duties of the secretary of State. “This is true when the standards that apply to inspector’s choice of appealing were different from “administrative decision made by local authorities,” backs planning lawyers at Bates Solicitors.
This is the “light touch” approach to R (Hawksworth Securities Plc) v Peterborough City Council & Ors  EWHC 1870 (Admin)
Meanwhile, the Appeals Court decided that an approach like this needs special treatment. The general public and those parties that are interested are entitled to know the reasons behind the decision and when is the decision of the authority as when the decision is left to the Secretary of State. In the case of Dover, there were several important factors that justified the reasons:
- According to the protective position of the NPPF and their policies all decisions that could adversely affect an AOBN must be made and accompanied with “substantial reason.”
- The absence of advice from specific officer’s;
- The statutory duty and applicability of a statement of reasons and mitigation as outlined in the Regulation 24(1)(c) of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011
- Pricey Administrative Error
The Committee in question failed to provide proper minutes and list legally adequate reason for the action:
- First of all, the members’ acceptance or refusal of the officer’s assessment of harm was very vague; If they did accept, they would have made the decision to inflict irrevocable damage on an AONB based on the limited information they were presented.
- Second, it was unclear whether or not they saw issues of viability issues as a risk, which would have made the need to address the issue of damage all the more serious.
- Third, it could not be accurately inferred if they had applied an unweighted balance to protection for AONB.
- Finally, the conclusions reached had been derived from visual screening which was “dubious at best and would need the support of more substantial reasons then were provided in the minutes.
The judgement does confirm that while the missing 24-hour statement may not necessarily bury the decision where the reasons provided were adequate, it will not save the decision where the decisions were not.
The anticipated judgement provided will set down a definitive position for the scope of what reasons justify approval. Until this comes through, coherence and transparency are the only sensible plan of action.