In recent judicial review proceedings challenging the grant of planning permission for a development of 30 beach huts in Findhorn, Morayshire, the decision turned on the interpretation of ‘for a public use’ – one of the requirements of the applicable LDP policy justifying development of green spaces.
Although part of the proposal outlined that two out of the 30 huts would be given to the local community, and there was potential for other income to be generated through Council Tax and ground rents, the residents argued that these measures did not go far enough to satisfy the policy requirement.
In contrast, Moray Council and the developer emphasised that the proposal provided obvious financial benefits to the community, as well as enhancing Findhorn as a tourist destination, so that the idea of benefiting the community was in-line with a broader, objective interpretation of public use that did not necessarily require direct, physical access.
Ultimately Lord Armstrong favoured the latter approach, concluding that accessibility by the public should not be determinative and that public or community benefits are encompassed in the concept of public use.
This is an interesting decision and a helpful one, too, as the ideas of public use and public benefit arise when considering development proposals for most industry sectors.
The wider principle – that public benefit or use derived from a development can be indirect as opposed to necessarily requiring a physical connection with the site– may well prove useful for developers of sites that are constrained by size or environmental factors.