Dartford Borough Council -v- SSCLG  EWCA Civ 141, 14 March 2017
The sole issue on this appeal was the meaning of “previously developed land” (often called “Brownfield land”) as defined in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The definition in NPPF reads as follows:-
“Previously developed land: land which is or was occupied by a permanent structure, including the curtilage of the developed land… and any associated fixed service infrastructure. This excludes:…land in built-up areas such as private residential gardens, parks, recreation grounds and allotments…
A planning inspector allowed an appeal against the refusal by Dartford BC to grant planning permission for the change of use of land to a private G ypsy and Traveller caravan site comprising one mobile home and one touring caravan. The site in question was within the residential curtilage of Shirehall Farm. Shirehall Farm is within the Green Belt and is not in a built-up area. The inspector decided that the site qualified as previously developed land because:
i) It was within the curtilage of a permanent structure (namely Shirehall Farm) and
ii) It was not excluded as “land in built-up areas such as private residential gardens, parks, recreation grounds and allotments”.
Dartford BC challenged the second reason above.
Lord Justice Lewison gave the leading Judgment in dismissing the appeal of Dartford BC. He stated:-
“8. The starting point is, of course, the words themselves read as a matter of ordinary English. The critical words are: “land in built-up areas such as private residential gardens, parks, recreation grounds and allotments”.
9. In my judgment the words “such as” state clearly that what follows are examples of something. Examples of what? They can only be examples of the more general expression that precedes them, namely “land in built-up areas”. As a matter of ordinary English I cannot see that any other meaning can be given to this sentence. “Land in built-up areas” cannot mean land not in built-up areas. It is argued that this interpretation means that other parts of the NPPF are in conflict with each other. Even if that were true it is not the business of the interpreter to go searching for possible ambiguities or conflicts in order to detract from the obvious meaning of the words to be interpreted. (his emphasis).
He also stated:-
“23. In my judgment it would be quite wrong to expect the public, for whose benefit the NPPF is published, or indeed a would-be developer, to have to undertake the investigation of previous iterations of government planning policy in order to understand the NPPF, let alone ministerial statements introducing previous iterations of policy. Indeed that would defeat one of the main purposes of promulgating the NPPF in the first place.
To see a copy of the Judgment please follow the link:- Judgment