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Planning Law Speed Read – June 2018

Welcome to Ward Hadaway's planning law Speed Read. The aim of our bite-sized bulletins is to keep you abreast of the 'hot' topics and key legal issues relevant to you.

Long-awaited village green decision from Court of  Appeal

You may have recently seen in the Press that the Court of Appeal has issued its decision in respect of the contentious village green case of R (on the application of Lancashire County Council) v Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs [2018] EWCA Civ 721.

The case centred on the interpretation of the statutory incompatibility test in the context of two village green registrations in relation to a school field owned by the Council and woodland owned by the NHS. The case also considered other key concepts of village green law, including the “spread” of the users and “locality”.

The issue of statutory incompatibility is largely based on the Newhaven decision where it was concluded that a beach could not be registered as a village green because such registration would be incompatible with specific legislation applying to the harbour (including the beach) which required the maintenance of the harbour for defined purposes. The Council tried to argue in this case that the village green status would be incompatible with the statutory purposes for which the land was held by an education authority. The Inspector considering the original application concluded that the use of the land for school sports fields was not incompatible with use as a village green. Similarly, the NHS argued that it would be incompatible with the statutory requirement to provide hospital accommodation which the woodland (adjoining a hospital) may in the future be required for. The CoA were however unconvinced with these arguments and did not consider that there was an incompatibility between the village green legislation and the general statutory provisions which applied.

The “spread” of user point which was considered was whether it was necessary to show a geographical spread of users throughout the locality in the context of demonstrating a “significant number of inhabitants… within a locality”. The CoA determined that there was no statutory requirement for there to be a spread of users and there was no justification to include this as an additional requirement.

Ultimately, for the reasons set out above and other reasons explored in detail in the judgment, the CoA upheld the registration of the village greens.

If you require any advice or assistance in relation to a village green issue then please do not hesitate to get in touch. Our Planning Team have special expertise in this area and have recently successfully defended a village green application on behalf of St Modwen and Sully Sports and Social Club.

Grant of planning permission did not oblige Council to sell land

R. (on the application of Daniel Johns Manchester Ltd) v Manchester City Council 

The Administrative Court has recently reported on an interesting point where the local planning authority was also a private landowner of the land. The Court held that the fact that a local authority had previously granted planning permission for a development had no connection with its later landowning decision to decline to sell the property to a developer. It appears that the Council’s subsequent decision was not subject to the full range of public law obligations. The Court held that there was no ground for interference in the Council’s decision, unless the decision had involved fraud, corruption, bad faith, or improper motive.

The case demonstrates the importance of being aware of the different capacities in which a Council is acting when a Developer is engaged with a Council in relation to the promotion and acquisition of Council owned land.

English cities regeneration fund doubles in size

The English Cities Fund, a partnership between three of the UK’s leading regeneration and investment organisations (Legal & General, Homes England and Muse Developments), has announced that it will double its investment in cities and towns in England to £200m. The Fund looks to deliver five schemes that have a total value of £1.6 billion. It is seeking new partnerships with councils, regional authorities and other public sector organisations to transform major sites, deliver mixed-use residential schemes, and create inspiring new places. The £200 million fund is set to target complex, large-scale and long-term regenerations projects; some have already been delivered in Liverpool, London, Plymouth, Salford, and Wakefield. It has so far delivered 850,000 square feet of office, retail and leisure space, and built 1,300 homes in new neighbourhoods, with another 2,210 homes in the pipeline.

Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Robbie Williams’ planning battle continues

On 29th May 2018 Kensington and Chelsea’s planning committee met and on the agenda was a proposal by Robbie Williams to construct a single-storey basement comprising a swimming pool, gym and associated facilities. Jimmy Page, who lives next door in a house known as the ‘Tower House’, has been vehemently opposed to such works because of worries that the vibrations from the digging could damage his Grade I Listed Building home. In particular, Page was concerned that construction workers could damage his home’s interior of plaster, stained glass and tiles.

Page attended the committee meeting and pleaded that the committee “take all necessary measures to protect the Tower House from the threat of harm it faces,” whereas it’s been reported that Williams has responding saying “great care has been taken to propose a method of construction that will result in absolute minimal impact and is therefore compliant with stringent policy.”

The planning committee deferred their decision over granting the permission in order that the councillors seek legal assurances about independent monitoring of vibration levels and ground movement from any construction work, as well as the consideration of extra conditions, such as the possibility of workers using only hand tools.

The feud between the pair has been ongoing since 2013 when Williams purchased the home – it will be interesting to see if the planning authority is able to reconcile their differences.

If you have any questions on the issues covered in this update and how they will affect you, please do not hesitate to contact Kamran Hyder.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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