Scrivens v Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government, Court of Appeal - Administrative Court, November 22, 2013, [2013] EWHC 3549 (Admin)

Resolution Date:November 22, 2013
Issuing Organization:Administrative Court
Actores:Scrivens v Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government

Neutral Citation Number: [2013] EWHC 3549 (Admin)

Case No: CO/12845/2012






Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 22 November 2013

Before :

Mr Justice Collins

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Between :

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The Applicant / Claimant was not represented and Appeared in Person

Mr Richard Turney (instructed by the Treasury Solicitor) for the Respondent/Defendant

Hearing date: 29 October 2013

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Mr Justice Collins :

  1. There are three matters which were heard together and which are dealt with in this judgment. Two are applications under s.288 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 against two decisions of inspectors dismissing the applicant's appeals against the refusal by the interested party of planning permission or its failure to determine the application. The third is a claim for judicial review of the inspector's decision to award costs against the claimant following dismissal of the appeal in the second application. I shall refer to Mr Scrivens as applicant and the Secretary of State as respondent in this judgment.

  2. The first application is against the decision of an inspector, Mr John Woolcock, to dismiss three conjoined appeals in relation to the erection of a dwelling at Longberry Farm, Bettersden, Ashford, Kent. I shall refer to these as Woolcock A, B and C. The second application relates to the decision by Mr Christopher Bowden to dismiss the applicant's appeal against the refusal of planning permission for the erection of a new dwelling at Longberry Farm. This I shall refer to as the Bowden decision. Since the claim for judicial review of Mr Bowden's decision in relation to costs is, if it does not fall away because I find in favour of the applicant on his s.288 application, accepted by the respondent to have been erroneous on the only ground on which permission for judicial review was granted it will only require short consideration. I will leave it to the end of this judgment and concentrate on the two s.288 applications.

  3. The basis upon which Mr Bowden awarded costs was the excessive amount of material submitted by the applicant which he decided was unreasonable. In support of the applications before me, the applicant has shown the same vice. His final so-called skeleton argument ran to 252 paragraphs over some 122 pages. In addition, he lodged five lever arch files totalling 1793 pages. Much of this was not relevant or helpful in considering the issues which arose in these applications.

  4. The applicant has attempted to use these applications as an attack on the manner in which the defendant through the National Planning Policy Framework Strategy (NPPF) has applied the Renewed EU Sustainable Development Strategy 10917/96 and the alleged failures by the two inspectors to apply a proper approach to and understanding of sustainable development in dealing with the appeals. In addition, he has asserted that the system whereby appeals are heard by inspectors appointed by the defendant contravenes Article 6 of the ECHR. The applicant did not develop this in his oral submissions and, in the light of authorities which lay this argument to rest, I need not do more than say that it is unarguable. He was also concerned that each inspector had determined the appeals on paper rather than holding an inquiry. As each stated, there was no need for an inquiry since all the issues had been fully explained in the documents submitted - indeed, to an more than necessary extent - and so a proper decision could be reached without the expense of an inquiry. Each inspector was entitled to deal with the appeal before him as he did.

  5. The applicant describes himself as an eco-technologist. He lectures regularly on topics contained in the NPPF and in particular he is, he says, very familiar with the concepts and the exact meaning of words contained in the NPPF. The inspectors like all their colleagues have, he says, failed to apply either the concepts or the wording of the NPPF since they have failed to understand the true meaning of sustainable development. The dwellings which are the subject of three of the original applications, namely Woolcock A and C and Bowden, are all designed to comply with the true meaning and extent of sustainable development. Each is designed to be autarkic, namely self-sufficient, that is to say, not dependent on any finite source of energy, water or other needs for living in the 21st century. And this approach is essential, he says, since oil and natural gas will run out in the foreseeable future and alternative sources will not fill the gap. Thus autarkic houses must be developed. Furthermore, his applications relate to innovative and to an extent experimental dwellings to establish that an autarkic approach can work - indeed, the applicant is adamant that it must work.

  6. The legal framework which governs the approach which must be adopted in considering applications for planning permission and which is material to these applications is contained in s.70(2) of the 1990 Act and s.38 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. S.70(2) provides, so far as material:-

    ``In dealing with [an application for planning permission] the authority shall have regard to-

    (a) the provisions of the development plan, so far as material to the application ...

    (c) any other material considerations.''

    S.38 of the 2004 Act specifies what are to be regarded as ``development plans''. By s.38(3) they include the regional strategy for the region (if there is one), the development plan documents (taken as a whole) which have been adopted or approved in relation to that area and the neighbourhood development plans which have been made in relation to that area. S.38(6), provides:-

    ``If regard is to be had to the development plan for the purpose of any determination to be made under the planning Acts the determination must be made in accordance with the plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.''

    References to ``the plan'' include all material plans since in any Act the singular includes the plural.

  7. The NPPF is not a plan nor is it to be regarded as a policy statement within the meaning of Part 2 of the Planning Act 2008 - see s.5 of that Act. It is however a material consideration. In the adoption of development plan documents, the local planning authority must, in accordance with s.39(2) of the 2004 Act, ``exercise the function with the objective of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development''. S.39(2A) states that the LPA ``must (in particular) have regard to the desirability of achieving good design''. And s.39(3) requires the LPA to have ``regard to national policies and advice contained in guidance issued by ... the Secretary of State ''. While this refers to the...

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