In a High Court
case that might well find itself quoted frequently among those residents fighting against bad planning decisions that don’t control foul water drainage (Burscough, anyone?) a consortium of residents fought and won against legitimate expectations of the ability to comment prior to determination.
South Cambridgeshire District Council
has agreed to the High Court quashing its decision to discharge in part conditions relating to foul and surface water drainage for a residential development.
The local authority accepted that the Fews Lane Consortium, which represents local residents, had a legitimate expectation that it could make comments on the application prior to it being determined.
This was despite the council having no underlying legal duty to consult the claimant. The consortium was told that it had until 4 November 2019 to comment on the application. “The Defendant however took the decision on that application on 28 October 2019 in breach of the Claimant’s legitimate expectation and prior to it submitting further representations and erred in law thereby,” the consent order said.
The council was ordered to pay the claimant’s costs of £3,102.17. Daniel Fulton, who has led the Consortium’s litigation efforts, said “Residents should be able to have confidence that their local council will determine planning applications in a fair and lawful manner and that their representations will be meaningfully taken into account. It’s sad that local residents from Longstanton were forced to go to the High Court in London in order to get a fair planning decision from their own local council”.
South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Planning, Cllr Dr.Tumi Hawkins, said “Our Planning Service receives around 4,500 planning applications each year and the High Court is very clear that this ruling relates to a single one.
“We were not legally obliged to consult with Mr Fulton on the discharge of two conditions on this application. However, as we gave Mr Fulton the impression that he could take part in this consultation, we should have allowed him to submit comments before making a decision. We hold our hands up about this mistake and following the court’s initial view, we agreed to settle this case without any need for it to be examined further. We’ll now re-assess the application so that Mr Fulton can have his say”.
Daniel Fulton, who has led the FLC’s litigation efforts, said: “For years the South Cambridgeshire District Council has failed to carry out public consultations in a lawful manner and has failed to meaningfully take into account representations received. The High Court has now put the council on notice that its approach to public consultations was and is unlawful.”
“The council argued in its submissions to the court that the public had no right to respond to public consultations and the council had no obligation to take into account material representations received. As the court’s order makes clear, this approach to public consultations is plainly unlawful and is wholly incompatible with adequate standards of public administration.”
In a further development on 3rd March 2020 it was reported that the “civic affairs committee voted today to recommend stripping all planning powers from elected councillors. No call-ins for members or parish councils. Only @Cllr_H_Williams voted to retain democratic authority over planning decisions”.
A second judicial review claim involves Steeple Morden and alleges that the council’s ongoing practice of taking delegation decisions on planning applications at unannounced meetings, from which the public are excluded and for which no agendas or minutes are published, is a violation of the Local Government Act 1972. There is a preliminary hearing on this on Thursday next week, with the judgement expected this year.
A third claim by FLC against the council, which concerned the Council unlawfully changing its constitution, was conceded in full by the council and so is now fully settled.