Where a planning policy lays down black letter requirements, is it always necessary to be able to show that they have been strictly adhered to? No. A planning policy serves to guide the public as to the thinking of the local planning authority but there may be good reason to depart from it.
In Islington Borough Council v Secretary of State for Communities And Local Government & Anor  the local planning authority’s policy favoured the retention of public houses and required them to be vacant and to have been marketed as a public house for a continuous period of at least two years before they would agree to alternative uses.
The Good Intent Public House in Holloway was neither vacant nor had it been marketed for at least 2 years. When the local planning authority failed to determine a planning application for its demolition and replacement by 6 houses the developer appealed.
The inspector granted planning permission but the local planning authority challenged the decision on judicial review.
Had the inspector misunderstood and misapplied a planning policy as the local planning authority alleged?
The court said not. On the contrary he had considered the policy and the purpose behind it which was the retention of viable public houses.
The current owner TGI Taverns was an experienced pub operator and had commissioned a public house property specialist to produce a report which had concluded that neither it nor any successor could make it profitable as a pub. It suffered competition from a decent number of other nearby pubs which affected its viability and provided alternative social venues. The inspector was entitled to think that marketing the property as a pub would be futile. In respect of the street scene and historical values the policy was expressed to uphold, the inspector had made a clear finding of fact that the “Good Intent” was not of particular value to the local community. By contrast, later in his decision letter he concluded that the proposed town houses “would represent a respectful addition to the street scene”.
The case again demonstrates the Court’s reluctance to overturn a tribunal’s thoughtful application of planning policy where proper regard has been had to its underlying purpose.
This blog is made out of general interest. It does not replace the need to obtain proper legal advice in individual cases.