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Planning Court Gives Guidance on Constituency MP’s lobbying Ministers in Respect of Planning Decisions

DATE: 19 Jun 2015

The Planning Court (Cranston J) rejected a challenge brought by Broadview Energy Development Limited against the Secretary of State’s refusal of planning permission for its wind turbine development at Spring Farm Ridge” in Helmdon, South Northamptonshire.

The Claimant had alleged that there had been breaches of natural justice and that the decision was vitiated by actual and apparent bias because of representations made by the local MP to Ministers in correspondence and during an encounter in the lobby of the House of Commons.

In rejecting the claim, Cranston J gave the following guidance on political lobbying [2015] EWHC 1743 (Admin) at paragraph 49:

“Ministers are lobbied by MPs about constituency issues.  That takes place through correspondence and other avenues.  Because Ministers are Parliamentarians, MPs use the opportunity to lobby them in person through informal encounters on the Parliamentary estate.  This is part of our Parliamentary democracy and generally there can be no lawful objection to it.  Planning is an area where Ministers are sometimes the primary decision-maker.  There is nothing unlawful in their being lobbied by an MP on a constituency planning matter so long as Ministers act fairly and consistently with the standards of propriety set by the Planning Inquiries Rules, the Ministerial Code and the planning propriety guidance.  In this case the claimant has failed to establish that the ministerial decision against planning permission for its proposed wind farm was unlawful, through unfairness, bias or material breach of planning propriety standards”.

Dan Kolinsky QC acted for the First Defendant, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.