Contribution towards element of composite development was lawful planning consideration

Planning law recognises the possibility that an application for planning permission may be for a development which includes a number of elements, a composite development. Here, the advantages of one element can be balanced against the disadvantages of another.

In Campaign To Protect Rural England (CPRE), R (On the Application Of) v Dover District Council [2015] China Gateway International (CGI) Limited (“CGI”) applied for planning permission for an extensive development on two sites on the western fringe of Dover. Namely:

(a) outline planning permission for:

(i) a very large residential development at Farthingloe;
(ii) a much smaller residential with hotel and conference centre development at Western Heights; and
(iii) pedestrian access and landscaping work between the two sites;

(b) full planning permission for:

(i) the conversion of existing buildings on both sites for a variety of purposes; and
(ii) the conversion of the Drop Redoubt at Western Heights into a visitor centre and museum.

Landowners agreed in a Section 106 Agreement to make a total payment of £8,132,499 towards a variety of purposes.

Objectors challenged a £5 million “heritage contribution” to be expended on the refurbishment of the Drop Redoubt and it’s conversion to a visitor centre and museum. It would not cover the whole costs.

Payments of £825,000, to assist making a countryside access area between the two sites, and £27,000, to afford a paved footpath between them, were also agreed.

CPRE said the heritage contribution of £5 million was unlawful and so should have been disregarded by the planning committee when determining CGI’s application for planning permission.

At all times material to this case the lawfulness of a planning obligation under section 106 fell to be determined by regulation 122 of the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations 2010 which provided:

“(2) This regulation applies where a relevant determination is made which results in planning permission being granted for development.

(3) A planning obligation may only constitute a reason for granting planning permission for the development if the obligation is —

(a) necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms;

(b) directly related to the development; and

(c) fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the development…..”

CPRE said where the planning obligation under a section 106 agreement was to make a payment of money for a specified purpose, “development” in regulation 122(2) meant that part of the development, for which planning permission is sought, which funds the contribution. Here it was the development of the Farthingloe site which would fund the heritage contribution for the Western Heights site. So it was unlawful and should have been disregarded.

Disagreeing with CPRE the High Court said “development” in regulation 122(2) meant the development in respect of which a “relevant determination”, namely the grant of planning permission under section 70 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, is made.

Planning permission here was granted for a composite development of the Farthingloe and Western Heights sites, and access land in between.

The lawfulness of the planning obligation to fund the heritage contribution must therefore be judged by reference to the development for which planning permission was granted; in other words the whole development, not solely or principally the Farthingloe site.

“Treated as a composite development, the questions posed by regulation 122 answer themselves. The heritage contribution was necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms. Without it, the advantage which went a considerable way to balancing the disadvantage of development on an area of outstanding natural beauty could not be achieved. It was directly related to the development. It was to be expended on a part of the development for which planning permission was given, the restoration of the Drop Redoubt and the creation of a visitor centre and museum. It was fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to that part of the development — at least that sum was required to fund it — and also to the development as a whole, which was understood, rightly, by all to be a major scheme.”

This blog has been posted out of general interest. It does not replace the need to get bespoke legal advice in individual cases.