Unlikely prospects of recreational equestrian use resuming were “obviously material” in Green Belt housing appeal – decision quashed

04 Jan 2022

Planning and Environment

Millwood Designer Homes LTD v. (1) Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and (2) Reigate and Banstead District Council [2021] EWHC 3464 (admin)

Judgement handed down 17 December 2021.

Examples of circumstances that may constitute “obviously material considerations” are still relatively rare. The decision of HH J. Jarman Q.C. in the case of Millwood Designer Homes is a good example of such a case.

It concerned an appeal against refusal of planning permission for redevelopment of a redundant former riding school in the Green Belt in Surrey. The riding school had closed because it was making a loss and the owners, who lived next to the site, had made it clear that they did not intend to reopen the facilities.

To comply with Local Plan policy and the NPPF which requires that loss of recreational land should only be permitted where the land is surplus to requirements, the appellant had carried out a marketing exercise, which had resulted in no offers coming forward for the equestrian buildings, stable yards and land. The Inspector found that the marketing exercise was flawed because the grazing land needed for horses had been excluded from the land marketed for sale.

The Claimant had made it clear that the recreational use would not resume, in any case. The Secretary of State argued that although a material consideration, it was not one that the inspector was obliged to take into account and the focus before the inspector was the adequacy of the marketing exercise.

The Judge found that the issue of resumption was obviously raised and in the written representation procedure the claimant put forward reasons why the owners did not want to offer land for sale. The prospect of the school remaining redundant should the application fail was clearly raised by the appellant. The inspector had failed to grapple with this issue but focussed on the marketing exercise. The Inspector had not considered whether there was any prospect of the facilities reopening.

In such circumstances, the likelihood of resumption of that use, is “obviously a material consideration to the balancing exercise undertaken by the inspector between loss of that use and the benefits of the development proposals”. The evidence of the intention of the owners as to their wish to retain all the land to the east of the school was plainly relevant in that regard. The council had raised issues about that, but the inspector did not grapple with these issues, as she should have done.

The Court quashed the decision remitted it to the Secretary of State.

Jonathan Clay of Cornerstone Barristers acted for the Claimant.
Caroline Daly of Francis Taylor Building acted for the Secretary of State.