London Residuary Body v Lambeth London Borough Council and Another

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtHouse of Lords
JudgeLord Keith of Kinkel,Lord Brandon of Oakbrook,Lord Templeman,Lord Oliver of Aylmerton,Lord Goff of Chieveley
Judgment Date10 May 1990
Judgment citation (vLex)[1990] UKHL J0510-2

[1990] UKHL J0510-2

House of Lords

Lord Keith of Kinkel

Lord Brandon of Oakbrook

Lord Templeman

Lord Oliver of Aylmerton

Lord Goff of Chieveley

London Residuary Body
(Appellants)
and
London Borough of Lambeth and Others
(Respondents)
Lord Keith of Kinkel

My Lords,

1

This appeal is concerned with a contest about planning permission for general office use of the Main Block of County Hall, formerly the seat of the Greater London Council ("the G.L.C."). The G.L.C. was abolished by section 1 of the Local Government Act 1985, and by virtue of article 14 of the Local Government Reorganisation (Property etc) Order 1986 County Hall was vested in the London Residuary Body ("the L.R.B."). Under Article 11 of that order three bodies were entitled to use parts of County Hall for such periods as the L.R.B. should determine. These bodies were the Inner London Education Authority ("I.L.E.A."), the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority ("L.F.C.D.A.") and the London Waste Regulations Authority ("L.W.R.A."). By paragraph 7(2) of Schedule 13 to the Act of 1985 the L.R.B. was empowered to dispose of any land held by it in such manner as it wished, and further was required to dispose of any land not required by it for carrying out its functions. Except with the consent of the Secretary of State, any such disposal, otherwise than by way of short tenancy, was required to be for a consideration not less than the best that could reasonably be obtained. By section 67 of the Act of 1985 the L.R.B. was required, subject to certain exceptions, to use its best endeavours to secure that its work was completed as soon as practicable and in any event by 1 April 1991.

2

The L.R.B. gave notices to I.L.E.A., L.F.C.D.A. and L.W.R.A. determining the periods for which they were entitled to occupy parts of County Hall on various dates between 31 March 1987 and 31 March 1988. An application by I.L.E.A. for judicial review of the notice relating to it failed both in the Divisional Court and in the Court of Appeal.

3

In October 1986 the L.R.B. presented to Lambeth London Borough Council ("Lambeth") as local planning authority various applications for planning permission related to County Hall. County Hall comprises the Main Block, the North, the South and the Island Blocks, and the Addington Street Annexe. For the Main Block the L.R.B. sought permission to develop for mixed hotel, residential and general purpose office use, and for the other blocks it sought permision for general office use. At the same time the L.R.B. submitted applications for determination under section 53 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 whether the use of the whole of County Hall (apart from the Addington Street Annexe) for office purposes unrelated to any local government use would constitute development of land so as to require planning permission under Part III of the Act of 1971. Lambeth failed to make a decision on the various applications within the prescribed period, and so the L.R.B. appealed to the Secretary of State under section 37 of the Act of 1971 as though the applications had been refused. The L.R.B.'s appeals were opposed by Lambeth, by I.L.E.A., by L.F.C.D.A. and by L.W.R.A.

4

A public local inquiry beginning on 28 April 1987 was held by Mr David Keene, Q.C., as Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State. Mr Keene reported on 25 August 1987. He recommended that the appeal on the section 53 application should be dismissed, taking the view that the use of County Hall or any part of it for office purposes unrelated to local government would constitute a material change of use. As regards the appeals on the planning applications, Mr Keene recommended that the applications to permission for use for general office purposes the parts of County Hall other than the Main Block should be granted, but that the application in relation to the Main Block should be refused. He took the view that there was a compelling need that the Main Block should be retained for London Governmental use.

5

In a decision letter dated 20 October 1987 the Sectretary of State accepted the inspector's recommendation on the section 53 applications, and on the parts of County Hall other than the Main Block. As to the Main Block, however, he rejected in part the Inspector's recommendation and granted conditional planning permission for use for general office purposes, though not for hotel and residential use.

6

There were then appeals to the High Court both by Lambeth, I.L.E.A., L.F.C.D.A. and L.W.R.A. on the one hand and by the L.R.B. on the other hand. The L.R.B. appealed under section 247 of the Act of 1971, seeking to have the Sectretary of State's decision on the section 53 application set aside. The other bodies appealed, under section 245 of the same Act, for a quashing of the Secretary of State's decision to grant planning permission for the Main Block. The Secretary of State was one of the respondents to both appeals. In the High Court Simon Brown J. on 28 March 1988 gave judgment dismissing the L.R.B.'s appeal under section 247 and allowing the appeal of the other bodies under section 245. The sole ground upon which he allowed the latter appeal was that the Secretary of State's reasoning was not adequately stated in his decision letter. He rejected various other contentions of the appellants, in particular the contention that the Secretary of State had misdirected himself in law as to the nature and correct application of the true test for determining whether or not planning permission should be granted. The L.R.B. and the Secretary of State appealed to the Court of Appeal. At this stage L.F.C.D.A. and L.W.R.A. dropped out of the proceedings. On 20 July 1989 the Court of Appeal (Slade, Lloyd and Stocker L.JJ.) gave judgment. They allowed the appeal under section 247 by the LRB upon the section 53 applications, setting aside the Secretary of State's determination and remitting the matter to him for reconsideration in the light of the opinions of the court. On the other hand they dismissed the appeals by the L.R.B. and the Secretary of State under section 245 holding, contrary to the view taken by Simon Brown J., that while the Secretary of State's reasoning was adequately stated in his decision letter, yet he had not properly applied the correct test for determining whether planning permission for general office use should be granted.

7

The L.R.B., with leave granted by the Court of Appeal, now appeals to your Lordships' House against the Court of Appeal's dismissal of its appeal under section 245. The Secretary of State has dropped out. Lambeth and I.L.E.A., jointly represented, are respondents. No appeal is taken by them against that part of the Court of Appeal's order which dealt with the section 53 applications, nor do they challenge that court's finding on the adequacy of the Secretary of State's reasoning.

8

Section 29(1) of the Act of 1971 is the provision which empowers local planning authorities to grant planning permission, It provides:

"Subject to the provisions of sections 26 to 28 of this Act, and to the following provisions of this Act, where application is made to a local planning authority for planning permission, that authority, in dealing with the application, shall have regard to the provisions of the development plan, so far as material to the application, and to any other material considerations and — ( a) Subject to [sections 41 and 42] of this Act, may grant planning permission, either unconditionally or subject to conditions as they think fit; or ( b) may refuse planning permission."

9

Section 36 of the Act deals with appeals to the Secretary of State against a refusal of planning permission. Subsection (5) provides that inter alia section 29(1) shall apply in relation to such an appeal as it applies in relation to an application for planning permission which falls to be determined by a local planning authority.

10

It is to be observed that section 29(1) does not lay down any legal requirement to be followed by the local planning authority, or, as the case may be, by the Secretary of State in determining an application for planning permission, other than that of having regard to the provisions of the development plan and to any other material considerations.

11

The inspector, however, in arriving at his recommendation against the grant of planning permission for general office use of the Main Block, applied what may be described as a "competing needs" test. In his summary of conclusions he expressed the matter thus:

"5.5 So far as the proposed change of use of the Main Building to office use is concerned, the damaging consequences of that proposal are more limited. It need not cause harm to the character of the building as a listed building, although it should be made clear that modern, efficient office floorspace is most unlikely to be created without causing such significant harm. The office use would for this reason have to be of a similar style to that which currently exists in the office-type parts of this building. No valid office policy objections exist to such a use, as has already been indicated, nor would there be harmful consequences for the locality.

5.6 The issue therefore on the proposal to change the use of the Main Building to an office use is one of competing needs. Not only was there no evidence of any significant need for more office floorspace in this locality, but the LRB's own advisors have cast doubt on the suitability of this building for providing efficient office floorspace. It seems quite clear that the need to continue the existing use of the building outweighs any need to put it to an office use, and I so conclude. Indeed, there was some suggestion at one stage that it might perhaps be right to grant the planning permission sought, because so limited would be the demand for office floorspace here by outside bodies that organisations...

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