South Bucks District Council v Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions and another

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtHouse of Lords
Judgment Date01 Jul 2004
Neutral Citation[2004] UKHL 33

[2004] UKHL 33


The Appellate Committee comprised:

Lord Steyn

Lord Scott of Foscote

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

Lord Carswell

Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood

South Bucks Distict Council

and another

Porter (FC)

My Lords,


I have read the opinion of my noble and learned friend Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood. I am in complete agreement with it. I would also make the order which he proposes.


My Lords,


I have had the advantage of reading a draft of the opinion of my noble and learned friend Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood and am in full agreement with the reasons he has given for allowing this appeal.


My Lords,


I have read the speech of my noble and learned friend Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood. I am in complete agreement with it. I too would make the order which he proposes.


My Lords,


I have had the advantage of reading in draft the opinion prepared by my noble and learned friend Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood. I agree with his reasons and conclusion and I would allow the appeal and make the order which he proposes.



My Lords,


This is the fourth appeal before the House in recent years in which your Lordships have had to consider the adequacy of reasons given in decisions made under the Town and Country Planning legislation. The three previous decisions were Westminster City Council v Great Portland Estates plc [1985] 1 AC 661 ("Westminster") concerning an aspect of the council's adopted district plan, Save Britain's Heritage v Number 1 Poultry Ltd [1991] 1 WLR 153 ("Save") concerning the Secretary of State's grant of planning permission on appeal from the local planning authority's refusal of permission, and Bolton Metropolitan District Council v Secretary of State for the Environment (1995) 71 P & CR 309 ("Bolton") concerning the Secretary of State's grant of planning permission on a called-in application. In each of those three cases the reasons challenge failed before the judge at first instance, succeeded before the Court of Appeal, but failed again before your Lordships. In the present case too your Lordships are asked to overturn a decision of the Court of Appeal, in this case allowing a local planning authority's appeal from the judge's dismissal of a statutory challenge and quashing an inspector's grant of planning permission, principally on the ground that he gave inadequate reasons for his decision. A further ground of the Court of Appeal's decision was that the inspector failed to have regard to the unlawfulness of the appellant's occupation of the land.


The second respondent, the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions ("the Secretary of State"), chose not to appear in either court below. Concerned, however, at the Court of Appeal's decision and regarding both issues as of general importance, he appears before your Lordships in support of the appellant's case.

The appeal


The appeal is brought against a decision of the Court of Appeal (Pill, Mance and Longmore LJJ) on 19 May 2003, [2003] EWCA Civ 687; [2004] JPL 207, allowing an appeal by South Bucks District Council ("the council") against the order of His Honour Judge Rich QC sitting in the Administrative Court on 17 September 2002, [2002] EWHC 2136 Admin, dismissing the council's application under section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 ("the 1990 Act") seeking to quash a decision of the Secretary of State given by his duly appointed inspector by letter dated 19 February 2002. The inspector had allowed an appeal by the appellant ("Mrs Porter") against a decision of the council on 5 September 2000 refusing planning permission for the retention of a residential mobile home at Willow Tree Farm, Love Lane, Iver, Bucks ("the site"). The permission granted by the inspector was subject to conditions including a condition that it was personal to Mrs Porter.



The appeal has something of a history. This is, indeed, the second time within just over a year that your Lordships have had to consider the circumstances of Mrs Porter's occupation of the site–see South Bucks District Council v Porter [2003] 2 AC 558 ("South Bucks").


Mrs Porter is a 62 year old Romany gipsy who bought the site in 1985 and has ever since lived there with her husband in breach of planning control. The site lies within the South Bucks Green Belt, very close to its eastern boundary with the village of Iver and within the Colne Valley Park. As described in the inspector's decision letter:

"[The] mobile home provid[es] a kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom. It has the appearance of a permanent dwelling with a pitched roof and chimney. It forms part of a cluster of buildings made up of stables, tack room and a barn; there is a yard area with some touring caravans on it and, to the west, is a field also owned by [Mrs Porter] and her husband."


The detailed planning history of Mrs Porter's occupation of the site is set out, at pp 567-568, in para 7 of Lord Bingham of Cornhill's speech in South Bucks. For present purposes it is sufficient to record, as the inspector did, two previous planning decisions of relevance. The first, in 1994, concerned Mrs Porter's appeal against six enforcement notices relating variously to her residential use of part of the site, the erection of some buildings and the construction of hardstanding. All the enforcement notices were upheld save for that directed to the hardstanding. The second decision was the dismissal of Mrs Porter's appeal in 1998 against the refusal of planning permission for the retention of her mobile home and associated outbuildings.


It was following the 1998 refusal of planning permission that the council in December 1999 applied to the court for an injunction under section 187B of the 1990 Act requiring her to cease her residential use of the land, an application granted by Burton J on 27 January 2000 to take effect a year later. Burton J's order was made just two days after Mrs Porter's application for planning permission (the application refused by the council on 5 September 2000) which began the history of the present appeal. On 12 October 2001 the Court of Appeal (myself, Peter Gibson and Tuckey LJJ) allowed Mrs Porter's appeal against Burton J's order–that being the decision unsuccessfully appealed by the council to your Lordships' House in South Bucks. The speeches in South Bucks were deliveredon 22 May 2003, just three days after a differently constituted Court of Appeal had allowed the council's appeal in the present proceedings.

The inspector's decision


In determining the appeal the inspector (just as the council on the original application) was required (a) by section 70 (2) of the 1990 Act to "have regard to the provisions of the development plan, so far as material to the application, and to any other material considerations," and (b) by section 54A of the 1990 Act, as inserted by section 26 of the Planning and Compensation Act 1991, to decide the matter "in accordance with the plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise".


The statutory development plan consisted of the County Structure Plan and the council's Local Plan. Put shortly, both provide for a general presumption against allowing inappropriate development in the Green Belt, reiterating national guidance in PPG 2 which states:

"3.1 The general policies controlling development in the countryside apply with equal force in Green Belts but there is, in addition, a general presumption against inappropriate development within them. Such development should not be approved, except in very special circumstances….

3.2 Inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to the Green Belt. It is for the applicant to show why permission should be granted. Very special circumstances to justify inappropriate development will not exist unless the harm by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm, is clearly outweighed by other considerations….".


Having summarised those provisions the inspector continued:

"Main Issue

6. For the appellant it was accepted that the appeal development constituted inappropriate development in Green Belt terms. The main issue in this case, therefore, is whether there are any very special circumstances why the appeal development should be permitted despite this."


The inspector then turned to state his reasons for allowing Mrs Porter's appeal subject to conditions. The most material reasons for present purposes were these:

"7. The appellant has occupied the appeal site as a home for a considerable period of time purchasing the land in 1985. However, the council does not dispute the gipsy status of the appellant or her family either in the ethnic or statutory sense and I have, accordingly, given this some weight in my considerations….

9. … I consider that, bearing in mind the difficulties involved, the council has made reasonable provision for gipsy sites. Nevertheless, the appellant has only just recently made an application for one of these, there are no vacancies at present and waiting lists are long. On this basis I conclude that there is no alternative location available to the appellant at present and unlikely to be one for a considerable time.

10. It is also apparent from the evidence that the appellant suffers from serious ill-health. The written evidence from those treating her medically is that she suffers from chronic asthma, severe generalised arthritis and chronic urinary tract infection: she also has diabetes and high blood pressure. I accept also that displacing her and her husband from their home on the appeal site would make it difficult for her to continue with the...

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