Another success for planners in the High Court

A planning inspector's decision to overturn the refusal of six homes has been quashed by the High Court after a successful challenge by Malvern Hills District Council.

The council had originally refused the application for six new homes at Malvern Caravans, between Malvern and Powick, in July 2014 on the grounds it was not sustainable development and not in keeping with local and national planning rules.

The decision was overturned on appeal by planning inspector Joanne Jones in February 2015 who argued it would make a modest contribution to the shortage of housing in the district and was not contrary to those rules.

The council's planning officers were concerned by the decision as it could have severely impacted their ability to resist similar applications in the future.

The Secretary of State initially challenged the council's claim but on 29 June admitted the inspector had made an error in law when she said the development was in-line with local planning policy and that she had not given adequate reasons for allowing the appeal. The decision was ordered to be quashed without a formal hearing.

However on 8 July the applicant decided to make their own challenge which was considered at the High Court in Birmingham on Thursday, 23 July. After a two hour hearing the Honourable Mr Justice Hickinbottom agreed the appeal decision should be quashed.

He also ordered the Secretary of State and the landowner to pay the council's costs of £6,498 within 21 days.

The council's original refusal decision will now be reconsidered by the Planning Inspectorate.

Duncan Rudge, development control manager at Malvern Hills District Council, said: "We knew the planning inspector had made a mistake and we're delighted this has now been confirmed by the High Court. We had to act fast as if the inspector's decision had been left unchallenged it could have affected our ability to resist similar inappropriate housing proposals in the countryside in the future."

Gary Williams, head of planning and housing at Malvern Hills District Council, said: "Planning inspectors should understand and correctly apply relevant planning policies when considering appeals. If they make a serious error then the council should always consider whether their decision should be challenged whatever the scale of the development involved."

It is the second successful High Court challenge for the council after another planning inspector's decision to grant planning permission for a new house at Pensax Common in Stockton was also quashed.