Pertemps Investments Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Another

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtQueen's Bench Division (Administrative Court)
JudgeMr Justice Lindblom
Judgment Date31 July 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] EWHC 2308 (Admin)
Date31 July 2015
Docket NumberCase No: CO/5740/2014

[2015] EWHC 2308 (Admin)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

ADMINISTRATIVE COURT

PLANNING COURT

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Before:

Mr Justice Lindblom

Case No: CO/5740/2014

Between:
Pertemps Investments Limited
Claimant
and
(1) Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
(2) Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council
Defendants

Ms Thea Osmund-Smith (instructed by Pinsent Masons) for the Claimant

Mr Richard Kimblin (instructed by the Treasury Solicitor) for the First Defendant

Hearing date: 22 May 2015

Mr Justice Lindblom

Introduction

1

This case is about the Government's current policy for development control in the Green Belt and the corresponding policy in a more recently adopted local plan.

2

By its application under section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 the claimant, Pertemps Investments Ltd., seeks an order to quash the decision of the inspector appointed by the first defendant, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to dismiss its appeal against the refusal by the second defendant, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, of planning permission for the erection of an office building with basement car parking on an existing car park in the grounds of Meriden Hall in Meriden, near Coventry. Pertemps is a group of more than 80 companies, which employ about 40,000 people throughout the United Kingdom. It has used Meriden Hall as its headquarters since 1989, has invested a large amount of money in the site, and provides jobs for 150 people there. The site is in the West Midlands Green Belt. Meriden Hall is a grade II* listed building.

3

The council refused planning permission for Pertemps' proposed development on 29 August 2013. The first of the three reasons for refusal was this:

"The proposed development represents inappropriate development as it is located in the Green Belt. The very special circumstances advanced do not clearly outweigh the substantial harm to openness, character and function of the Green Belt. The proposed development is therefore … contrary to Policy C2 of the Solihull UDP and emerging policy P17 of the draft Solihull Local Plan and advice contained in the National Planning Policy Framework ["the NPPF", published in March 2012]."

4

Pertemps appealed to the Secretary of State against the Council's decision on 18 February 201The inspector held a hearing into the appeal and made his site visit on 2 September 201His decision letter is dated 22 October 2014. In paragraph 2 of his decision letter he identified two "main issues" in the appeal. The first was whether the proposed development would "amount to inappropriate development in the Green Belt and, if so, whether very special circumstances exist to clearly outweigh this and any other harm". The second was whether the development would "preserve the special architectural and historic interest of the listed building or its setting". These proceedings are concerned only with the inspector's consideration of the first of those two issues.

The issues for the court

5

Pertemps' application raises two main issues for the court:

(1) whether in his consideration of the Green Belt issue the inspector misinterpreted and misapplied Policy P17 of the Solihull Local Plan (ground 1); and

(2) whether he failed to have regard to the council's decision in March 2014 to grant planning permission for development on Jaguar Land Rover's site at Damson Parkway, Solihull, and whether he determined Pertemps' appeal inconsistently with that decision (ground 2).

Policy P17

6

The local plan was submitted to the Secretary of State in draft for examination in September 2012 – about six months after the publication of the NPPF. The examination hearings were concluded in October 2013, the inspector's report on the examination was presented to the council in November 2013, and the plan was adopted on 3 December 2013.

7

In section 7 of the local plan, "Sustainable Economic Growth", paragraph 7.1.2 says that "Solihull has the most productive economy in the Midlands". Paragraph 7.1.4 says that "[sustainable] economic growth in Solihull is an important driver of economic recovery and employment in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership area and West Midlands". Paragraph 7.1.10 refers to Jaguar Land Rover as "one of the West Midlands' and UK's, most important businesses and a key driver of economic recovery …", that "[the] Lode Lane plant in Solihull currently provides about 5,000 jobs and is expected to increase its workforce by 25%, demonstrating the company's commitment to Solihull" and that "[it] is critical that [Jaguar Land Rover] is able to continue to secure and develop its activities in the Borough". Policy P1, entitled "Support Economic Success", refers to several of the "key economic assets" in the council's area – the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham Airport, Birmingham Business Park, Blythe Valley Business Park and Jaguar Land Rover's plant at Lode Lane. It recognizes that Jaguar Land Rover is "important to the national, regional and local economy and is a major employer", and goes on to say this:

"The Council will support and encourage the development of Jaguar Land Rover within its boundary defined in this Local Plan. This will include a broad range of development needed to maintain or enhance the function of Jaguar Land Rover as a major manufacturer of vehicles. The reasonable expansion of the site into the Green Belt will be given positive consideration where economic need can be demonstrated and appropriate mitigation can be secured."

In the text explaining Policy P1, paragraph 7.2.18 states:

"The Council will continue to support the further development and modernisation of the vehicles plant in order to enable its continued success in the competitive global vehicles market. Land Rover is constrained in terms of its ability to expand by its location within the main urban area. To reflect this and having regard to the vital importance of Jaguar Land Rover to the region's economy and to job creation, Policy P1 enables positive consideration to its reasonable expansion into the green belt subject to demonstration of economic needs and appropriate mitigation measures."

Paragraph 7.2.19 acknowledges that "[this] principle is also reflected in Policy P17 that enables the reasonable expansion of established businesses into the green belt where the proposal would make a significant contribution to the local economy or employment, including for example, Whale Tankers at Ravenshaw Lane that has aspirations to further develop its site".

8

Policy P17 is entitled "Countryside and Green Belt". The first part of the policy, which states the council's commitment to preserving the "best and most versatile" agricultural land in its area, is not relevant here. The second part of the policy is relevant, and has been the focus of the parties' submissions on ground 1. It says:

"The Council will not permit inappropriate development in the Green Belt, except in very special circumstances. In addition to the national policy, the following provisions shall apply to development in the Borough's Green Belt:

• Development involving the replacement, extension or alteration of buildings in the Green Belt will not be permitted if it will harm the need to retain smaller more affordable housing or the purposes of including land within the Green Belt.

• Limited infilling will not be considered to be inappropriate development within the Green Belt settlements, providing this would not have an adverse effect on the character of the settlements. Limited infilling shall be interpreted as the filling of a small gap within an otherwise built-up frontage with not more than two dwellings.

• The reasonable expansion of established businesses into the Green Belt will be allowed where the proposal would make a significant contribution to the local economy or employment, providing that appropriate mitigation can be secured.

• Where the re-use of buildings or land is proposed, the new use, and any associated use of land surrounding the building, should not conflict with, nor have a materially greater impact on, the openness of the Green Belt and the purposes of including land in it, and the form, bulk and general design of the buildings shall be in keeping with their surroundings.

• Where waste management operations involving inappropriate development are proposed in the Green Belt, the contribution of new capacity towards the treatment gap identified in the Borough may amount to very special circumstances, providing the development accords with the waste management policy of this Plan."

The third part of the policy explains that outside the inset boundaries of the small settlements of Hampton-in-Arden, Hockley Heath, Meriden and Catherine de Barnes, which are "inset" in the Green Belt, "strict Green Belt policies will apply". The site of Pertemps' proposed development is outside the inset boundary for Meriden.

9

In the text providing the "Justification" for Policy P17 paragraph 11.6.3 states:

"Green Belt policy is set out in the national policy and will apply across the whole of the rural area of the Borough, other than the inset areas around settlements and other major developments. National policy makes clear that established Green Belt boundaries should be altered only in exceptional circumstances and only when a local plan is being prepared or reviewed. It also describes the circumstances when built and other development should be considered as an exception to inappropriate development."

Paragraph 11.6.4 refers to the "pressure on the Green Belt in Solihull" and...

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