Bramley Solar Power Residents Group v SSLUHC
The High Court (Lang J) dismissed a statutory challenge to the grant of permission for a solar farm. Permission had been granted on appeal by a planning inspector following an inquiry.
Robert Williams acted for the Secretary of State, instructed by the Government Legal Department (GLD).
Key takeaways from the judgment include:
- Neither the PPG nor EN-1 mandates a consideration of alternative sites. Still less do they require a sequential test to be applied.
Lang J rejected the submission that the PPG and/or EN-1 imposed such a duty whenever permission is sought for a solar farm. Note, however, (i) this does not mean that evidence on alternative sites is incapable of being a material consideration and (ii) there may be certain circumstances where such consideration is mandatory (see the analysis in Save Stonehenge).
- Amendments at the appeal stage.
Fairness does not dictate that consultations are undertaken by public bodies. A developer can lawfully undertake a consultation on proposed amendments to a scheme at appeal stage. Notably, the Appellant’s consultation letter had explained that they were simply facilitating the consultation and the responses were for the benefit of the Inspector.
- The inspector was entitled to hear evidence on the original and amended schemes.
He was not required to determine, ahead of the inquiry, whether to accept the proposed amendments the scheme.
- (Non)-Valued landscapes.
Whilst the policy direction to “recognise” the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside must have some protective implication (as found in De Souza), the level of protection afforded to valued landscapes is plainly higher. The inspector had not erred when stating that the NPPF “does not seek to protect all countryside from development” and had undertaken a detailed analysis of the harm that would be caused to the non-valued landscape.
Read decision here.