Judge quashes a planning permission after six years


25 March 2021

Another exceptional case where the Judge quashes a planning permission after six years – where does this leave the six week challenge period now?

Following judgement on the 19 March 2021 the case of R on the Application of Croyde Area Residents Association v North Devon District Council - Case Number: CO/2368/2020 has hit the planning headlines as the Judge quashed a 2014 planning permission some six years out of time.

In 2018 I wrote an article titled ‘Extraordinary case where Judge quashes planning permission after six years’ following the Thornton Hall Hotel case. We have not subsequently seen a flurry of cases for out of time judicial review or revision of the general position that a Judicial Review of a planning decision should be made within six weeks of the relevant decision. However, could this new 2021 case be a turning point?

This 2021 case concerns a planning permission from 2014 which was meant to do no more than extend a caravan park's opening times. In fact it did a lot more than that.

Attached to that permission was a plan which demarcated an area of land far larger than the existing caravan park (which the local authority failed to spot). A red line on the plan encompassed an area of roughly 22 hectares which, before 2014, had no planning permission for the stationing of caravans or lodges. The demarcated land also lay within the AONB.

The Judge comments that the council had "erroneously granted permission for a different purpose, and in respect of a different area of land, than it intended". It would have likely required an EIA and was in conflict with a number of planning policies.

As the parties appeared to agree the planning permission from 2014 was unlawful the real issue before the Court was whether, after so many years, it should be quashed.

The Judge concluded: "The interests of the credibility of the planning system weighs heavily in favour of quashing the permission.”

"It would be very hard to explain to a member of the public why a permission which was granted in complete error, and where the developer has now got a permission which gives him what he originally sought, i.e. the extension of operating times, should not be quashed.”

"Taking all relevant factors into account... I consider this to be an exceptional and indeed unique case in which it is appropriate to extend time and to quash the 2014 permission."

I consider, as with Thornton Hall, this is a unique and exceptional case. As there were errors, and all parties agreed it was not the intent to issue the planning permission as it was, the Court has found itself in a position of taking the most logical and sensible position of quashing the decision. What else were they supposed to do and what else could have been done when faced with such a scenario?

To answer my earlier question as to whether this is a turning point, I don’t believe it will be. Nor should it be a cause for concern that all planning permissions, despite their age, can be challenged. It seems to me, on the facts of this Croyde Area Residents Association case and the Thornton Hall Hotel case that these are purely exceptional. However, what is clear is that the Court is open to consider quashing even very old decisions in such cases where both parties agree and where clearly there is an obvious error that needs addressing.’

If you would like specific advice regarding planning permission please contact Steven Bell on 01603 756521 or another member of the Planning and Environmental Team.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at March 2021.

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Steven Bell

Senior Associate

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