Leeds City Council’s decision to grant outline planning permission for housing on a community sports field has been ruled unlawful by a High Court judge for a second time today, Wednesday 6 July 2022.
The judgment quashes the permission and means the council must think yet again after an earlier grant of outline planning permission for housing on TV Harrison Sports Ground, in Oldfield Lane, Wortley was quashed in August 2021.
Additionally, in January 2022 a judge ruled that Leeds City Council’s refusal to list the sports ground as an asset of community value (ACV) was unlawful (also for the second time).
The land has been restored and maintained by the local community and is used for sports including football matches. Part of the land is owned by Leeds City Council and leased to Leeds School Sport Association which owns the remainder of the land.
All four successful legal challenges to the council decisions have been brought by TV Harrison CIC, a community interest company represented by Jenny Wigley QC of Landmark Chambers, instructed by Ricardo Gama of Leigh Day Solicitors.
In the judgment handed down today, Mr Justice Eyre accepted TV Harrison CIC’s ground of claim that Leeds City Council was in breach of Breach of s. 70 (2) Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and s. 38(6) Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 because it had failed to have regard to policy N6 of its own Unitary Development Plan, which specifically protects playing fields such as TV Harrison Sports Grounds.
TV Harrison CIC challenged the council under the established proposition that a decisionmaker’s decision “will be open to challenge if he fails to have regard to a policy in the development plan which is relevant to the application or fails properly to interpret it”.
When the application was presented at planning committee, the planning officer did not mention policy N6 in his report and the chair used a casting vote to grant permission. TV Harrison CIC argued that there was a material possibility that the fact that the playing field was designated and protected in a saved policy of the development plan would have tipped the balance in favour of refusal, notwithstanding that the site is also allocated for housing in the Leeds Site Allocations Plan (SAP).
In his judgment, Mr Justice Eyre said:
“51. In order to determine the application lawfully the Defendant had to have regard to policy N6. It had to consider that policy and made a judgement as to its interrelation with the SAP and the allocation there of the Site for housing subject to the site requirements. As Miss Wigley QC put it the Defendant had to grapple with the consequences of the policy N6. That was not done and as a consequence the Decision was flawed as a matter of law.”