R v Secretary of State for the Environment and Another, ex parte Kirkstall Valley Campaign Ltd

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtQBD (Crown Office List)
Judgment Date06 March 1996
Date06 March 1996

Queen's Bench Division

Before Mr Justice Sedley

Secretary of State for the Environment and Another, Ex parte Kirkstall Valley Campaign Ltd

Public law - bias principle - application to public bodies

Bias principle and public bodies

The principle that a person was disqualified from participation in a decision if there was a real danger of bias from a pecuniary or personal interest in the outcome was of general application in public law and was not limited to judicial or quasi-judicial bodies or proceedings.

Mr Justice Sedley so held in the Queen's Bench Division when dismissing an application by Kirkstall Valley Campaign Ltd, a community action group concerned about the development of Kirkstall Valley in Leeds, for judicial review of the decision of the Leeds Development Corporation on July 21 1994 to grant planning permission for retail development in the form of a supermarket on a rugby pitch in the valley belonging to the Headingley Football Club and the reserved matters decision of March 29, 1995. William Morrison Supermarket plc, which had bought the land to which the challenged decisions related in the expectation of benefiting by the planning consent, appeared as the second respondent.

The applicants claimed that one or both decisions were vitiated by personal interest amounting to an apparent bias on the part of three members and an officer of the corporation.

A planning application had been put forward in 1993 by Kirkstall Valley Properties Ltd for a proposed retail and housing development scheme but that scheme was abandoned as non-viable in 1995. By that date, however, the corporation had entertained and approved a compromise scheme, the subject of the present application.

It was not alleged that the scheme was unlawful but that the decisions taken by the corporation were so contaminated by the undeclared interests of members in earlier decisions that they could not stand.

Those interests included the corporation chairman's ownership of land in Shadwell to which the rugby club was interested in moving, provided it sold its site in the valley, and other corporation members' links with the rugby club.

Mr John Hobson and Mr Paul Stinchcombe for the applicants; Mr Richard Drabble, QC, Mr David Elvin and Mr John Litton for the secretary of state; Mr Gerard Ryan, QC and Mr Jonathan Milner for the second respondent.

MR JUSTICE SEDLEY said that the application raised questions of some importance about the obligation of members...

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    ...of the allegedly disqualifying interest:" 62 The other case relied upon is that of R v Secretary of State for the Environment and Another Ex Parte Kirkstall Valley Campaign Limited (1996) 3 All ER 304 at page 328 (a) (b) where Sedley J said: "Participation can manifestly be more t......
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