R (oao Advearse) v Dorset Council [2020] EWHC 807

In R (Advearse) v. Dorset Council [2020] EWHC 807 (Admin), handed down on 6 April 2020, Swift J dismissed an application for judicial review of the grant of outline planning permission by Dorset Council for a major development in the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (“AONB”). The development comprises up to 760 homes, a 60-unit care home, a mixed-use local centre, a primary school and associated playing fields, areas of open space and allotments, and four hectares of employment land. The site, known as Vearse Farm and lying next to the town of Bridport in West Dorset, is allocated for this development in Policy BRID1 of the West Dorset, Weymouth & Portland Local Plan 2015. The judicial review claim, brought by a local residents group known as “Advearse”, was designated a significant planning court claim and challenged the grant of consent on three grounds:

  1. The officer’s report to the Council’s planning committee was significantly misleading as to the impact of the scheme on nearby designated heritage assets;
  2. The Council had failed to take into account a material change in national policy between NPPF 2012 and NPPF 2019 regarding development in an AONB;
  3. The officer’s report failed to lawfully address the requirement in para. 172 of NPPF 2019 to demonstrate “exceptional circumstances” for development in an AONB.
Swift J dismissed grounds (2) and (3), notably concluding that the introduction of the words “the scale and extent of development within these designated areas should be limited” in para. 172 of NPPF 2019 was not a material change in national policy concerning major development in the AONB. In respect of ground (1), Swift J upheld the complaint, finding that the local planning authority did not properly address the application of national policy to two designated heritage assets. However, applying section 31(2A) of the Senior Courts Act 1981, the judge refused to grant relief because, in his view, it was “highly likely” that permission would have been granted for the development even if the errors made with regard to heritage assessment had not occurred. The judgment is available here. Matthew Henderson acted for Advearse, instructed by Leigh Day. Matthew Reed QC and Matthew Fraser acted for Dorset Council. Christopher Katkowski QC and Stephen Morgan acted for Hallam Land Management Ltd, the Interested Party, instructed by Addleshaw Goddard.

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