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Consistency in decision making - The consequences

A case involving Elmbridge Borough Council has been the subject of two judicial reviews, which have both resulted in the planning permission being quashed. 

The Council wanted to build a football and athletic stadium, together with associated development in the Metropolitan Green Belt at Walton on Thames.  The approach of the Council was to make an application effectively to itself and then grant permission for the development. 

The first application was granted and was the subject of a judicial review by interested parties and the decision was quashed in January 2017.  In light of the potential quashing of the permission, the Council had made a second planning application for a similar faclitiy and the differences between the two schemes were minor. 

The primary issue before the Court was the application of the principle of consistency in decision making between the two respective decisions.  In the first application, the planning committee reached a view that the development was appropriate in the green belt.  In the second report for a broadly similar scheme, it came to a view that the landscaping would enhance of the openness of the green belt but this report failed to take any account of the previous application and the considerations arrived at together with the quashing of the decision by the High Court. 

As a consequence, the Court reached the view that failing to have regard to the previous decision was a failure to take into account a relevant material consideration and that as such the decision made on the second application which was again to grant permission was unlawful and that decision has now been quashed. 

Comment : Whilst this decision relates to a local authority in essence granting itself planning permission and how it approached the decision and the reasons for making their decision,it has wider implications in decision making on the basis that if there is a previous decision, and a subsequent application seeks to depart upon it, it is important for the decision makers to have regard to consistency and provide a robust decision with reasons that can be defended in the event of challenge. 

For any more information on the topic sin the article above please contact Gareth Pinwell from our Planning Team on g.pinwell@ashfords.co.uk

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