High Court Explores Legal Principles on Planning Condition Discharge in Whiteside v London Borough of Croydon

Citation: [2023] EWHC 3289 (Admin)
Judgment on

Introduction

In the case of Stephen Whiteside, R (on the application of) v London Borough of Croydon, the High Court of Justice addressed several legal principles surrounding the lawfulness of a local authority’s decision to discharge a planning condition. Specifically, the case dealt with the interplay between planning conditions and the impact of their discharge on the compliance with other conditions and legal requirements. This article aims to dissect the key topics discussed in this judicial review, focusing on the legal principles that were applied and how they were linked to the relevant parts of the case summary.

Key Facts

The key facts of the case revolve around the challenge brought by the claimant against the London Borough of Croydon’s decision to approve the discharge of Condition 18 of a planning permission, which was juxtaposed against compliance with Condition 14 related to accessibility standards. Central to the dispute was whether the discharge of Condition 18 rendered compliance with Condition 14, and thus the Building Regulations 2010, impossible. The Court also examined whether the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) under the Equality Act 2010 was appropriately considered.

The Court outlined numerous legal principles throughout the judgment, which served as the bedrock for scrutinizing the local authority’s decision-making process.

Planning Judicial Review and Irrationality

The concept of irrationality under judicial review was expounded upon referencing the authorities in R (Christine Wells) v Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council [2022] and R (Law Society) v Lord Chancellor [2018]. The crux of the matter was whether the decision was within the range of reasonable decisions—the Wednesbury unreasonableness test—and if there was any flawed reasoning in the process.

Duty to Carry Out Sufficient Inquiry

The Court underscored the duty of the local authority to conduct sufficient inquiry as per the principles laid out in R (Plantaganet Alliance) v Secretary of State for Justice, affirming that the public body must inform itself reasonably but is not mandated to undertake exhaustive inquiries unless a reasonable authority would have deemed it necessary.

Interpretation of Planning Conditions

The judgment discussed the interpretation of planning conditions, guided by the ruling in Trump International Golf Club Scotland Ltd v Scottish Ministers [2015], which adopts an objective approach, considering the natural and ordinary meaning of the condition within the overall permit.

Approach to Material Considerations

The Court also touched on the handling of material considerations, drawing from R (Samuel Smith Old Brewery (Tadcaster) v North Yorkshire County Council [2020] and other case law, to infer that considerations obviously material under the Wednesbury principles must be duly assessed.

Public Sector Equality Duty

Regarding the PSED, the Court discussed its scope and the need for public authorities to have due regard to its principles in decision-making, as established in cases such as Hotak v Southwark LBC and R (Jewish Rights Watch Ltd) v Leicester City Council.

Building Regulations and Guidance

The Court addressed the relationship between planning conditions, the Building Regulations 2010, and the Approved Document M, emphasizing the importance of step-free access in the context of the case.

Outcomes

The Court found that the local authority erred in limiting its assessment to the specifics of Condition 18 without considering its implications for compliance with Condition 14 and the optional requirements in the Building Regulations. The Court also held that the Claimant’s concerns should have warranted at least some consideration. Additionally, despite noting deficiencies in how the PSED was addressed, the Court concluded that any such consideration would not have substantively altered the decision to approve the discharge of Condition 18.

Conclusion

The High Court’s ruling in Stephen Whiteside v London Borough of Croydon sheds light on several critical principles that public authorities must consider in planning decisions, particularly when discharging planning conditions. It reiterates that each decision should fall within the ambit of reasonable choices open to a decision-maker and be supported by an adequately informed and reasoned process. In this case, the local authority’s failure to engage with all relevant material considerations led to a conclusion that, notwithstanding their legal error, the outcome for the Claimant was likely to remain unchanged had they considered the Claimant’s concerns, due to the constraints of the existing planning permission. This case serves as a critical reminder of the due consideration that must be given to overlapping planning conditions and the impact of their discharge on broader building and equality regulations.

Related Summaries