Home > Cases > South Bucks DC v. Porter (No. 2)

When dealing with the question of Mrs Porter’s personal circumstances, Lord Brown added:

 

41… To my mind the inspector’s reasoning was both clear and ample. Here was a woman of 62 in serious ill-health with a rooted fear of being put into permanent housing, with no alternative site to go to, whose displacement would imperil her continuing medical treatment and probably worsen her condition. All of this was fully explained in the decision letter (and, of course, described more fully still in the reports produced in evidence at the public inquiry). Should she be dispossessed from the site onto the roadside or should she be granted a limited personal planning permission? The inspector thought the latter, taking the view that Mrs Porter’s “very special circumstances” “clearly outweighed” the environmental harm involved. Not everyone would have reached the same decision but there is no mystery as to what moved the inspector.

 

42. Quite why the Court of Appeal thought that some fuller explanation was demanded is unclear. It may be that they focused so closely on the importance of maintaining the Green Belt that they inflated the reasons requirement in this particular case. But this would be to offend against the principle established in Save that the standard of reasoning required is not dependent upon the importance of the issues involved—see para 28 above…

 

 

Nathalie Lieven represented the First Secretary of State.”>[2004] UKHL 33 and [2004] 1 W.L.R. 1953. The House of Lords reversed the Court of Appeal and restated the orthodox duty to give reasons in planning cases. Where special personal circumstances were considered, as here, the duty to give reasons did not require a “more comprehensive approach” or “a much fuller analysis” as Pill L.J. held in the Court of Appeal.

 

Lord Brown delivered the only judgment and summarised the duty as follows:

 

36. The reasons for a decision must be intelligible and they must be adequate. They must enable the reader to understand why the matter was decided as it was and what conclusions were reached on the “principal important controversial issues”, disclosing how any issue of law or fact was resolved. Reasons can be briefly stated, the degree of particularity required depending entirely on the nature of the issues falling for decision. The reasoning must not give rise to a substantial doubt as to whether the decision-maker erred in law, for example by misunderstanding some relevant policy or some other important matter or by failing to reach a rational decision on relevant grounds. But such adverse inference will not readily be drawn. The reasons need refer only to the main issues in the dispute, not to every material consideration. They should enable disappointed developers to assess their prospects of obtaining some alternative development permission, or, as the case may be, their unsuccessful opponents to understand how the policy or approach underlying the grant of permission may impact upon future such applications. Decision letters must be read in a straightforward manner, recognising that they are addressed to parties well aware of the issues involved and the arguments advanced. A reasons challenge will only succeed if the party aggrieved can satisfy the court that he has genuinely been substantially prejudiced by the failure to provide an adequately reasoned decision.

 

When dealing with the question of Mrs Porter’s personal circumstances, Lord Brown added:

 

41… To my mind the inspector’s reasoning was both clear and ample. Here was a woman of 62 in serious ill-health with a rooted fear of being put into permanent housing, with no alternative site to go to, whose displacement would imperil her continuing medical treatment and probably worsen her condition. All of this was fully explained in the decision letter (and, of course, described more fully still in the reports produced in evidence at the public inquiry). Should she be dispossessed from the site onto the roadside or should she be granted a limited personal planning permission? The inspector thought the latter, taking the view that Mrs Porter’s “very special circumstances” “clearly outweighed” the environmental harm involved. Not everyone would have reached the same decision but there is no mystery as to what moved the inspector.

 

42. Quite why the Court of Appeal thought that some fuller explanation was demanded is unclear. It may be that they focused so closely on the importance of maintaining the Green Belt that they inflated the reasons requirement in this particular case. But this would be to offend against the principle established in Save that the standard of reasoning required is not dependent upon the importance of the issues involved—see para 28 above…

 

Nathalie Lieven represented the First Secretary of State.

www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200304/ldjudgmt/jd040701/south-1.htm

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