In Westminster City Council (WCC) v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (SSCLG) and another, the High Court quashed an appeal decision by SSCLG on the basis that the planning inspector concerned had mistaken a personal undertaking by a property owner for a valid planning obligation under section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (the TCP Act).

Facts

The subject property originally had two garages at ground floor level with accommodation above. Although the original owner had obtained planning permission to convert one of the garages into residential accommodation, the condition attached to the permission was that the remaining garage could only be used for storage of motor vehicles. This position reflected WCC’s policy of retaining off-street parking in order to relieve the strain on lawful on-street parking in the area.

A planning application was subsequently submitted to convert the remaining garage into a living room. WCC refused the application and the decision was appealed to SSCLG.

On appeal, the appellant (the current property owner) gave a unilateral undertaking:

  • not to apply to WCC for a parking permit;
  • to notify prospective purchasers that they would not be entitled to a parking permit; and
  • to impose a covenant in such terms in every lease granted, assigned, transferred or otherwise provided in respect of the property.

The unilateral undertaking was executed as a deed and stated that it was a planning obligation for the purposes of section 106 of the TCP Act.

The appeal was successful and the planning permission was granted.

WCC sought an order to quash the permission and submitted that the planning inspector concerned had:

  1. taken into account an irrelevant consideration as the appellant’s undertaking was not a valid planning obligation for the purposes of section 106 of the TCP Act; and
  2. failed to justify his decision that the conversion conformed with WCC’s policy of retaining off-street parking.

Decision

SSCLG’s permission was quashed.

The High Court held that the unilateral undertaking was a personal undertaking by the appellant, not a valid section 106 planning obligation. The obligation did not meet the requirements when tested against section 106(1)(a)-(d) of the TCP Act and the obligation therefore did not run with the land or bind future owners and occupiers of the land. The mere labelling of the document as a unilateral undertaking, executing it as a deed and stating that it was a planning obligation was not determinative for the purposes of meeting the requirements of section 106 of the TCP Act.