This case related to the use of guidance on tactile paving. The Department for Transport produced guidance on the use of tactile paving, which had the endorsement of Guide Dogs for the Blind and the Royal National Institute for the Blind. In 2010, the defendant local authority adopted guidance for use in the design and specification of tactile paving in its area. The local authority’s guidance did not follow the national guidance issued by the Department for Transport. The claimant applied for judicial review and sought a declaration that the local authority had acted unlawfully in adopting the guidance and an order to quash the guidance. The main issue was the status and effect of the non-statutory guidance. The claimant said that the local authority was required to follow the national guidance unless there was a good reason to depart from it.
The application was allowed. It was held that the weight that should be given to particular guidance depended on the context in which the guidance had been produced. In particular, it was necessary to give due regard to the authorship of the guidance, the quality and intensity of the work done in the production of the guidance, the extent to which the interests of those who were likely to be affected by the guidance had been recognised and weighed, the importance of any more general public policy that the guidance had sought to promote, and the express terms of the guidance itself. In this case, the relevant national guidance had been produced at a high level and involved those with considerable experience and expertise in the applicable area. Considerable research had been undertaken before the guidance was finalised. The guidance had been issued against the background of the equality duty, by which the needs of the disabled had to be given due regard. The measures had been set out in imperative terms, largely because there was in the present context a compelling longer term need to achieve an acceptable level of uniformity and consistency throughout all localities. In view of those factors, the local authority was required to follow the national guidance unless it had good reasons to depart from it and no such reasons were found. Therefore, the local authority did not have a lawful justification for departing from the relevant national guidance and the local authority’s guide was therefore unlawful.