It is good practice for a local planning authority to give reasons for the grant of planning permission. Failure to give adequate reasons may be serious enough to justify quashing the permission.
There is a statutory duty to give reasons for the grant of permission for EIA development. However, even if it is not EIA development, reasons will need to be given where the grant of permission does not follow the planning officer’s recommendation; where the development would not comply with planning policy; and where there is significant public interest in the proposals. The law on the duty to give reasons was summarised and confirmed recently in a Supreme Court case, Dover District Council v CPRE Kent (2017) UKSC 79.
2. Supreme Court
The Dover case related to a planning application for a large residential development in an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB). Before the local authority granted permission, the planning officer’s report had made several recommendations, including reducing the number of residential units, to reduce the harm caused to the AONB. The report stated that this would preserve scheme viability and retain the economic benefits of the development, which helped to provide the finely balanced exceptional justification needed for causing harm to the AONB. The officer’s report also recommended implementation as a ‘single comprehensive scheme’ to secure those economic benefits (including a hotel and conference centre) and conditions or planning obligations to achieve this.
Planning permission was granted by the local authority without following these recommendations. No reasons were given by the local authority for this departure from the officer’s report.
2. Supreme Court
The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 came into force on 16 May 2017, implementing the 2014 EU Directive. Similar regulations have also come into force under the infrastructure planning regime. Largely, the new regulations are a fairly extensive and, in places, trivial set of amendments. The question is, will they have a tangible impact on established EIA practice?
Author: Martyn Jarvis, Associate, Planning, London
This Friday (15 April) is the deadline for responses to the Government's 'Technical Consultation on Planning Changes' (launched on 18 February 2016). The consultation sets out the Government's proposals to put flesh onto the bones of the Housing and Planning Bill, including for performance linked planning application fees, a brownfield land register and a Section 106 dispute resolution mechanism. The consultation paper also considers how the proposals for the grant of "planning permission in principle" will be put into effect. Permission in principle means the grant of automatic planning consents for housing led developments where further technical details will be provided at a later date.
In this post we discuss how the permissions in principle will fit with existing requirements for environmental impact assessments.
The regulations relating to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) set out various 'thresholds' for the purposes of determining whether development needs to be screened for EIA purposes. If the scale of the development is lower than the relevant threshold in the EIA regulations then no EIA screening is required and the planning application can be submitted without an EIA unless the Secretary of State issues a screening direction requiring an EIA (the Secretary of State – but not the local planning authority – has the discretion to carry out EIA screening even if the development is lower than the relevant threshold).
On 6 April 2015 the thresholds that set the point at which certain types of development project need to be screened for EIA purposes changed to:
• For 'urban development projects' – this is the EIA category under which commercial development schemes fall (such as office buildings, mixed-use developments, retail parks, housing developments etc) – screening is now not required unless:
The development includes more than 1 hectare of development which is not dwellinghouses;
The development includes more than 150 dwellinghouses; or
The area of the development exceeds 5 hectares.
Previously the threshold for urban development projects was 0.5 hectares.
• For industrial estate development projects the threshold is raised from 0.5 to 5 hectares.
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