Hayden-Cook v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (2010). This case was brought as a result of a dismissal by a planning inspector of an appeal against refused planning permission for the development of a site located in a Green Belt area.

The development proposal was to demolish two existing houses and to construct two new, and considerably larger, houses further away from the busy A-road near to which the existing houses were located. A new driveway could then be constructed that would be designed so as to reduce safety concerns regarding the junction, which joined the site to the A-road.

The planning application was dismissed on the grounds that the new houses did not need to be constructed any larger to achieve the benefits available by having the buildings further away from the road and the proposal to increase the size of the building was inappropriate for a Green Belt area. The developers claimed that the inspector’s decision did not take into account that refusal of planning permission would create uncertainty and further delay in addressing the road safety issue and that planning permission should have been given for the proposed development notwithstanding that there might be a superior alternative development proposal.

Sales J held that although the inspector could have come to this decision, he certainly did not have to. Such a decision would depend on the degree of harmful effects demonstrated by the development proposal and the benefits associated with that proposal. It would be for the decision-maker to make such an assessment, only to be impugned on the grounds of unreasonableness in the Wednesbury sense. The judge concluded that the decision was not unreasonable and dismissed the application.

This case illustrates that the court is reluctant to change planning decisions which it considers to be in the remit of a planning inspector to make. It emphasises the difficulty faced by developers seeking to challenge a planning inspector’s decisions where the inspector has not acted unreasonably.