My colleague Jack Robinson has reviewed the High Court's recent Sainsbury's decision and comments as follows -

The High Court has upheld a planning inspector’s decision, after a public inquiry, to grant Sainsbury’s permission to enable a retail unit to operate as a supermarket.  This involved the lifting of a restriction to non-food retailing, and building works for a service entrance. The unit was located on the ground floor of a building, of which the upper floors were residential flats.  The Council had refused permission on the ground (among others) that deliveries to the new supermarket would generate extra noise, which would have an unacceptable impact on the amenity of the flat residents.

The High Court, agreeing with the planning inspector, found that the unit was located on an already-noisy street, which had several loud noise events per day.  The proposed deliveries would add a few more periods of around 40 minutes of increased noise each day.  On a worst-case scenario analysis, the inspector had found that these periods would see a increase in noise levels of around 10dBA.  Taking into account World Health Organisation guidance, this was a ‘moderate’ increase.  The increases would be followed by a return to existing noise levels.

The actual noise levels during the periods of increased noise would fall in the middle of the range described in the Noise Policy Statement for England, which provides that “all reasonable steps should be taken to mitigate and minimise adverse effects on health and quality of life”, but “this does not mean that such adverse effects cannot occur”.

Any increase in noise levels was undesirable, but the planning inspector had rightly sought to judge whether the increase in noise levels was unacceptable in the context of an already-noisy city street, in a city centre area zoned for retail development.  He had found that it was acceptable—and that was a decision that he was entitled to make in the exercise of his planning judgment.