Gypsy sites: duty to consider part of the appeal/application proposal

Sykes v Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and Runnymede Borough Council [2020] EWHC 112

The case related to an application for 13 pitches for 23 families.  The claim against the inspector’s decision uphold the Council’s refusal of planning permission included grounds 5 and 6 where the Claimant said that inspector’s decision to refuse temporary planning permission was unlawful because he failed to properly consider granting planning permission for the residential use of fewer than 13 pitches.  The judge said:

    1.  accept the Council’s submission that the Appellant’s application for planning permission, and his appeal, was for 13 pitches with associated facilities to accommodate 23 households. If the Appellant wished to apply for an alternative proposal for a reduced number of pitches and households on appeal, he should have submitted details of the alternative proposal, with plans, indicating the number of households; the number of pitches and their location; and the access roads and infrastructure required.
    2. The Appellant, who had the benefit of a planning consultant, solicitor and Queens Counsel, all of whom had experience of planning applications, including on behalf of Gypsy and Traveller communities, did not at any stage submit any details of an alternative proposal. A reduced number of pitches and households was not mentioned in the Appellant’s Statement of Case; at the Pre-Inquiry Meeting, or in Mr Brown’s lengthy witness statement. At the Inquiry hearing, the Council witnesses and the objectors gave oral evidence but were not cross-examined about the possibility of an alternative proposal.
    3. It was only during Mr Brown’s oral evidence that this issue was raised. Mr Brown said that the appeal did not have to be considered on an “all or nothing” basis and invited the Inspector to consider granting planning permission for a smaller number of pitches and plots than had been applied for, if the Inspector was persuaded that that the personal circumstances of some of the families tipped the balance in favour of allowing the appeal. Mr Brown did not give any evidence as to the outline or detail of an alternative scheme for a lesser number of pitches and plots; no changes to the site layout were proposed and no draft planning conditions were provided.
    4. In those circumstances, where the Claimant did not at any stage present a proposal for a reduced number of pitches/households, I consider that the Inspector was entitled to deal with this issue in general terms, as he did at DL46, where he said:
“46. It has been submitted that planning permission, or even temporary planning permission, could be granted for some plots only, on the basis of according different weights to the prospective occupiers’ circumstances and carrying out the balancing exercise on a per plot basis. I do not believe that that would be an appropriate approach in a case such as this where the application is for the development as a whole, much of the infrastructure would still be required and it concerns land that was previously entirely undeveloped, but I consider in any case that such an approach would not alter the respective weights so much as to indicate a different outcome.”
The judge then accepted the inspector’s balancing of all the factors in assessing the harm to the Green Belt  which she felt was adequately reasoned.  Other grounds of the appeal  are discussed in this post:

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