When is a proposal “in accordance with” the development plan?
The Court of Appeal has handed down judgment in Cornwall Council v Corbett  EWCA Civ 508. The case concerned a proposal for new holiday lodges in an area of Cornwall noted in the development plan as an Area of Great Landscape Value (“AGLV”).
There were two main policies of the development plan relevant to the proposal. Policy 5 of the Core Strategy which supported new tourism facilities and saved Policy 14 of the Local Plan, which provided that development “will not be permitted that would cause harm to the features and characteristics of the AGLV”. Policy 14 had no exceptions.
The Council had found that the proposal would cause harm (albeit limited) to the AGLV, contrary to Policy 14, but that nevertheless found the proposal was in accordance with the development plan.
The High Court had quashed the grant of planning permission on the basis that the Council had wrongly concluded the proposal was in accordance with the development plan.
The Court of Appeal (Lindblom, Lewison and Leggatt LJJ) reversed that decision, holding that this was a case where the development plan pulled in different directions. The weight to attach to the respective policies and, therefore, the resolution as to whether the proposal was in accordance with the plan as a whole, was a matter of judgment for the Council. The judgment had been rationally exercised in this case, and therefore there had been no error of law.
The judgment illustrates that, even if cases where there is one policy drafted in very trenchant terms against development, a proposal may nevertheless be lawfully found to be in accordance with the plan if there are policies which support the nature of development under consideration. Lindblom LJ did however clearly contemplate that a breach of a single policy could, as a matter of principle, give rise to a breach of the development plan as a whole see para.42.