Court of Appeal emphasises distinction between the interpretation and application of planning policy

31 Oct 2022

Planning and Environment, Public Law and Judicial Review

R (on the application of Thurston Parish Council) v Mid Suffolk DC and Bloor Homes [2022] EWCA Civ 1417

The Court of Appeal has allowed appeals by Mid Suffolk District Council and Bloor Homes Limited and set aside an earlier decision of the High Court. Tom Cosgrove KC and Ruchi Parekh represented the successful Council Appellant, instructed by Clare Riches and Christine Flittner.

In an important judgment for planning decision making, the Court (Lewison, Singh and Whipple LJJ) discussed and further explained the important distinction between the interpretation and application of planning policy. Singh LJ giving the lead judgment, agreed with the submissions made on appeal by the Council that its decision to grant planning permission did not in fact involve any misinterpretation of policy in a neighbourhood plan. He held that the judge below fell “into the error of confusing the interpretation of a planning policy with its application”. The Court explained the correct approach to decision making under section 38(6) of the 2004 Act often involved a consideration of context and gave practical examples of situations that would be matters of planning judgment and application rather than of ones of legal construction.

The Court held that the Council’s planning committee had properly weighed the benefits and disadvantages of the proposed development against the background that there was a conflict with the Development Plan as a whole, despite not finding a conflict with a particular policy in the neighbourhood plan.  He held that the Council was entitled to reach the conclusion it did in accordance with the terms of section 38(6) of the 2004 Act.

A copy of the judgment can be found here.