The Defendant local planning Authority had approved construction of flats and bungalows in the grounds of a hotel situated in a conservation area. The Claimant objected to the plans on grounds of character of area, over-development and highway safety. The Authority’s highway officer’s report to the planning committee was in favour of the development, despite the difficulties with parking at the site at evenings and weekends.
In this case, there were deviations from the Authority’s Planning Protocol including: only three of ten members of the committee attended the site and a site attendance note was not completed. At the decision stage, four of the members withdrew from the decision on the grounds of insufficient knowledge. Of the remainder, only two had attended the site, yet the others claimed sufficient knowledge. The Claimant contended that as a result of procedural irregularities, the decision to grant permission should be quashed.
It was held that although the protocol was not fully adhered to, it could not be said that failures to follow the guidance were significant enough to prejudice the Claimant, nor that the planning committee was not properly constituted. There was no evidence to suggest that a different decision would have been reached had all members attended the site. Further, given the site visit was undertaken on a weekday, the reasons for visit must have been ancillary to the highways issues of parking on an evening and weekend. Accordingly failure to record an attendance note would not have been prejudicial to the Claimant. Finally, it was noted that the fact that some members had withdrawn, implied that the remaining members had sufficient knowledge of the site, as they would too have withdrawn if they had insufficient knowledge.